Sheffield Eagles eye successful Steel City return despite latest stadium hitch

Sheffield Eagles are back in their home city for the first time since 2019 when they face Widnes Vikings in front of the Premier Sports cameras on Monday, May 23.

But the capacity for the unveiling of the new Olympic Legacy Park, which has an artificial pitch, has had to be cut in the latest of a number of problems with the development of a venue, which it is hoped will eventually hold around 3,900.

The Eagles said in a statement: “We have waited a long time to return home to Sheffield and are overwhelmed with the demand for tickets.

“Unfortunately we are disappointed that, through absolutely no fault of our own, the first game back at Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park will have to operate on a reduced capacity within the stadium.

“This game will have to be ticket-only with no pay-on-the-day option.

“The club would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused and will continue to provide further updates to supporters as and when we can.”

Stadium owners Scarborough Group International have confirmed a limit of 800, including around 100 away fans, rather than the hoped-for 1,200 for the round-twelve clash, with a Rugby Football League spokesman saying: “We have been in regular contact with both clubs and Premier Sports in a bid to find an acceptable outcome.”

It’s expected the 800 crowd ceiling will remain until at least June, when the stadium reaches what the owners describe as “practical completion”.

The OLP is on the site of the old Don Valley Stadium, where the club was based between 1999 and 2009 and again from 2011 until 2013.

Since then, they have led a nomadic existence, playing at Owlerton Stadium, Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium (in two spells, including last year), Sheffield Hallam University Sports Park and ground-sharing at Wakefield Trinity, as well as using an embryonic version of their new base in 2018 and 2019.

In 2020, Sheffield had home games at Wakefield and two Doncaster grounds, Castle Park and the Keepmoat Stadium.

The pace of the OLP development has been slowed by Covid-related issues, and the original target date of Good Friday, April 15 for the first game there (against London Broncos) had to be shelved.

Having played their first seven matches away, the Eagles have staged three home games at Featherstone Rovers and one at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Mark Aston’s side will be aiming for a first win in four following back-to-back defeats at Leigh (in the league, then 1895 Cup, and Halifax.

Widnes, under the interim leadership of Ryan O’Brien, aim to build on their 56-16 home win over Whitehaven.

Sheffield 21-man squad: Josh Guzdek, Ben Jones-Bishop, Connor Bower, Ross Oakes, Jason Bass, Izaac Farrell, Anthony Thackeray, Brandon Douglas, Tyler Dickinson, Joel Farrell, Evan Hodgson, Mikey Wood, Blake Broadbent, Kris Welham, Ryan Johnson, Matty Grimes, Kadeem Williams, Phoenix Laulu-Togaga’e, Tom Holmes, Isaac Shaw, Yusuf Aydin.

Widnes 21-man squad: Jake Spedding, Ryan Ince, Steve Tyrer, Danny Craven, Matty Smith, Owen Farnworth, Matty Fozard, Sam Wilde, Adam Lawton, Kenny Baker, Joe Lyons, Aaron Brown, Liam Bent, Matt Fleming, Olly Davies, Lloyd Roby, Dec Gregory, Joe Edge, Will Tilleke, Eribe Doro, Callum Field.

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