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Following recent unexpected events the board of directors of Sheffield Eagles held an emergency board meeting last night to discuss the options for a playing venue in the city of Sheffield for 2014.
For several months since the announcement of the closure of Don Valley Stadium the club has been in detailed discussions regarding the newly developed Sheffield Hallam University sports complex on Bawtry Road.
Following a meeting last Wednesday it now appears that option is no longer available for first team fixtures. This has led to an emergency situation where the very future of the Eagles has been thrown into doubt.
Press and media announcements by Mark Aston, the Head Coach and Chief Executive, over the weekend have led to reassuring statements from Sheffield City Council that it will “do everything to ensure that the club continues to play games in the city next season”.
The only possible remaining venue within Sheffield that could potentially accommodate the Eagles is Owlerton Stadium where the Eagles started out life almost 30 years ago. However there is likely to be a substantial amount of work required to bring the stadium up to RFL requirements.
The stadium lost its safety licence for playing rugby league games in 1989 and a feasibility study will need to be carried out to see how practicable it will be to return rugby league to the stadium. Sheffield City Council is providing capital sums to relocate athletics to Woodbourn Road and it is to be hoped that they can also assist rugby league to relocate to Owlerton if the feasibility study is positive.
Without a professional rugby league club in Sheffield then all the community work that the club has been carrying out over those 30 years will cease, to the great detriment of thousands of youngsters in the city. Sheffield Eagles are the current rugby league champions but the sport of rugby league may be lost to the city of Sheffield unless assistance is forthcoming.
Sheffield Eagles is a not for profit community club and has been self-sufficient throughout its existence and has brought great prestige to Sheffield without a penny of assistance from the Council. In its hour of need the club is appealing for one off assistance to allow it to survive the closure of Don Valley Stadium and ensure that it remains a thriving club for years to come, providing ongoing opportunities for the youth of Sheffield to participate in the sport.
Ian Swire – Chairman for and on behalf of Sheffield Eagles RLFC