Oldham to play games at Stalybridge’s Bower Fold

Subject to RFL approval, newly-promoted Oldham Rugby League Club will play their home games next season at Stalybridge Celtic’s Bower Fold ground.

The news that fans have been waiting for since Roughyeds won promotion to the Kingston Press Championship in September was delivered on Thursday by club chairman Chris Hamilton, who has been working for weeks in a bid to find a temporary home for the team that took League One by storm last season.
With a capacity of 5,200, Bower Fold has 1,215 seats spread down both sides, terracing for standing at both ends and is covered on all four sides. Though outside of the Oldham Metropolitan Borough it is less than four miles from the boundary.
Hamilton said: “We are delighted and relieved to have finally secured a home venue for next year.
“Since we clinched promotion we’ve been under a lot of pressure to sort this out and not a day has gone by when it hasn’t been at the forefront of everything I’ve been doing.
“It’s been a tough period but, subject to RFL approval, we can now look forward to life in the Championship.
“Rob Gorski at Celtic (club chairman) has been a breath of fresh air in his willingness to help and facilitate us. We have found ourselves a willing and supportive partner.

“We are looking forward to working with Celtic as we bid to consolidate our place in the higher division.”

Roughyeds, who won both trophies that were up for grabs in League One rugby last season, had to find a new home because their Whitebank Stadium base in Limeside doesn’t meet RFL minimum standards for the sport’s second tier.

Describing Celtic’s new partnership with Oldham as “exciting”, Gorski said: “We are helping out a neighbour, but it’s a classic win-win situation.

“Roughyeds played St Helens in a cup-tie at Bower Fold in 2002 (where the attendance was 4,089) and we were happy to look at accommodating them on a more permanent basis.

“Having won promotion after six Grand Final defeats it would have been truly tragic had they been unable to pursue that prize.

“We hope Oldham fans will enjoy our facility at Bower Fold. Hopefully, we will also attract new fans from Stalybridge and other parts of Tameside.

“To have Championship rugby on their doorstep and to be able to see Oldham playing Bradford, Halifax, Leigh etc will be a big attraction.

“We’ve no issue with the state of the pitch. There are no sliding tackles in rugby league and no contested scrums so we don’t see wear and tear as a problem.

“We are delighted to become partners with Oldham in this new venture.”

Roughyeds have had to move out of a town that is steeped in rugby league history, but there was only one stadium that met the criteria – SportsDirect.com Park, home of Oldham Athletic.

Hamilton conceded they tried in vain to sort a deal out to play there, saying: “We tried really hard to reach an agreement to play there, but when it came down to the nitty-gritty there were concerns about the pitch’s ability to sustain both football and rugby league, especially in the winter months, and these concerns couldn’t be overcome.

“It was disappointing, but it wasn’t something we could control so we had to make alternative arrangements while wishing the football club well as they pass through a difficult period.

“There were no other suitable grounds in the borough, so we had to look a little further afield at the likes of FC United, who also had pitch problems, and also at Curzon Ashton and Ashton United, neither of whom could accommodate us.

“Geoff Roberts at Sedgley Park was, as always, keen to help as was John Roddy, chairman of Swinton, who also play there. But there were a number of clashes and we would have had to move five fixtures at least.

“The RFL were also concerned about two clubs sharing a facility in the height of winter.

“Harry Hulmes, the Mossley chairman, was also happy to help, but the ground did not meet minimum standards and time constraints were against us.

“Notwithstanding all that, Bower Fold is the best facility of the lot and we hope our fans will share in the relief of everyone at the club that the situation is finally resolved.

“Had we been unable to acquire a suitable ground there was a possibility that we would have been denied promotion. That would have been unthinkable.

“The irony is that at Bower Fold we will enjoy facilities that will be the envy of many clubs in the Championship.”