Whaling admits Eagles on verge of collapse

Sheffield Eagles chief executive John Whaling has spoken of how “red tape” and “lies” could result in the collapse of his club.

Whaling admits the Eagles are on the brink of entering administration after “frustrated” potential investors opted to walk away from talks to help fund a new home for the club.

One potential investor in the club was prepared to fund the new stadium on the condition he could construct a new power station near to the Olympic Legacy Park site, designed to produce electricity from waste which would otherwise be used for landfill.

Whaling claims a piece of land was identified for the green power station back in June.

However, in the weeks and months which have followed, the Sheffield boss claims little progress has been made, leading to the investor being unable to help the Eagles turn their dreams into a reality.

The proposed new stadium, which was set to built on the site of their former Don Valley home as part of the Olympic Legacy Park, now appears to be in doubt, meaning investment in the financially-stricken Eagles is unlikely to follow.

“In May we were approached by an investor who I have known for over 30 years, who asked about the opportunities at the Olympic Legacy Park,” explained Whaling.

“He was interested in financing the stadium, taking over the Eagles and bringing rugby union to the site.

“In return, he wanted to build a power station to generate electricity from waste that would normally go to landfill.

“He spoke directly to a director at Sheffield Council, who appeared to be supportive and helpful.

“A piece of land was identified for the power station and things appeared to be moving in the right direction.

“The investor sent an email in June to the council asking for certain points to be clarified and asked for a meeting in the middle of July to go through it.

“In that meeting the senior representative from the council was Paul Billington, he arrived to the meeting late and the first thing he asked was what we were meeting to discuss.

“I told him it was to discuss the email that had been sent in June, he asked me to run through what was contained in the email.”

TotalRL has had access to the investor’s email to Sheffield Council. It queries a number of pivotal points, while promising the project’s delivery upon accurate answers being provided.

Potential costs were the main concern at the time of the email being sent. But matters did not go to plan for Whaling, who claims the council offered little in the way of feedback.

He continued: “They had no answers for the questions, apart from that they had now discovered that the land they had offered us did not belong to them but to Sheffield International Venues (SIV) and we would have to speak to them to get a price to buy it.

“We duly spoke to Steve Brearley at SIV and an agreement, in principle, was done for the land.

“We then went back to the council and asked to be put in touch with someone in planning who could help and guide us through the process.

“It took four days to get the name even though we were told it would be sent over after the first discussion.

“We were then told the land had been designated for B1 use and that would not cover a power station.

“He told us we would have to apply for a change of use before we could move any further and that they were very busy, so he would expect that to take at least eight weeks.

“Our investor is willing to spend £35million on a power station, he is willing to supply the electricity generated to the council and SIV at a reduced price and guarantee the price for 10 years making an estimated saving to the council and SIV of around £20million over that time.

“He is willing to put £6million into a community stadium and then sign the stadium over to the company running the Eagles debt free.

“The council keep saying they have no money to help us. We have not asked for money, we have asked for their support to help to investor to find a piece of land that is suitable to build a power station on.

“In return he will build a stadium, take over the Eagles and supply cheap power to the city.

“I think our request is quite reasonable and I had hoped for support but all we have is red tape and lies.”