Frustration mounts at condition of The Shay as Halifax Panthers’ co-tenants move games away

HALIFAX PANTHERS’ co-tenants at The Shay, FC Halifax Town, are playing key ‘home’ fixtures more than 20 miles away – leading to questions over landlords Calderdale Council’s care of the pitch.

While the Panthers beat Batley in a Championship clash at the stadium nine days ago (Sunday, April 7) – their fifth outing there this year – Town’s National League meeting with Oldham, which was scheduled for last Wednesday, was postponed for a second time.

It was the latest in a string of home call-offs for a club trying to bring League football back to the town for the first time since 2002, when forerunners Halifax Town were relegated.

With continued doubts over the pitch – on which the Panthers are due to play Sheffield this Sunday, April 21, and Swinton seven days later – and facing a race against time to fit in their remaining matches by the deadline, phoenix club FC Halifax will play Ebbsfleet United at Accrington Stanley’s Wham Stadium on Tuesday.

They used that ground for Saturday’s game against Barnet, and are seeking a venue at which to play Oldham, potentially on Thursday (their final regular-season fixture is at Eastleigh, near Southampton, on Saturday).

Frustrated fans have accused the council, who want to opt out of running the 10,400-capacity stadium as they try to find savings of £18 million over three years of failing to maintain the pitch to the necessary standard.

And they are asking why other grounds, such as nearby Huddersfield, can successfully stage both sports.

Council director of public services Ian Day said: “We’re incredibly disappointed FC Halifax Town are unable to play fixtures at The Shay.

“Ground staff worked hard, as usual, to prepare the pitch for the fixture on Wednesday, April 10.

“However, following their assessments of the surface and the forecast for more wet weather, we agreed with the decision of the officials that unfortunately the club were unable to safely host the fixture at The Shay.

“We completely understand the problems caused and the disappointment and frustration felt by many fans of the club.

“We have done all we can within the short timescales available between fixtures to try and ensure the surface is playable.

“Unfortunately the weather conditions have been particularly challenging this year.

“According to the Met Office, March has been one of the wettest months on record and follows one of the wettest winters on record. These conditions have caused real problems for the Shay pitch.

“We’ll look to identify what treatments (to the pitch) are required. We will be assessing what is both practical and affordable in discussion with both the football and rugby clubs.

“We remain in close contact with both clubs and will keep them up to date with the condition of the pitch and any developing issues which may impact further fixtures.”

The Shay has been home to the Rugby League club since they sold their own ground Thrum Hall in 1998.

Football has been played there since 1921, and it was redeveloped from the 1990s onwards.