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Statement from Ian Swire, Chairman of Sheffield Eagles RLFC

The board of directors of Sheffield Eagles consider that two months into our tenure at Owlerton Stadium is a pertinent time to review people’s views on the facilities at the stadium. At the same time we would like to give an update on the current position regarding the development of a community stadium on the Don Valley Stadium site.

We are extremely grateful to everyone associated with Owlerton Stadium for coming to our rescue late last year when there was a very serious threat to the very existence of the Eagles. Moving the Club outside of the City region was not a viable option and would have threatened to destroy all of the grassroots development work carried out over the last decade and more.

It would have been even more heartbreaking now that we are seeing more and more of the youngsters developed by the Club emerging into the first team through our equally successful academy structures. Owlerton offered us a home and our supporters responded in an extremely positive way by purchasing record numbers of season tickets in advance of our return.

In purely financial terms, we banked 62% more money from season ticket sales than we did in 2013. Just as encouraging is the fact that the gate receipts for our first two home league fixtures have shown considerable increases over the corresponding fixtures last season at Don Valley Stadium. The feedback that the Club has received so far from supporters has been overwhelmingly positive.

Everyone appreciates that Owlerton is first and foremost a greyhound and speedway stadium which creates viewing issues and also playing issues for such an expansive team as the Eagles. This almost total lack of negativity byeveryone associated with the Eagles is something that we should all be proud of – the Eagles are truly a community club. We welcome any feedback on spectators’ gameday experience at Owlerton and the Club is developing a short questionnaire for the website to allow supporters to submit their views.

However we cannot disregard the fact that Owlerton Stadium is not, and never will be, a rugby stadium. The Eagles are a fiercely ambitious Club and our aim is, and always has been, a return to playing Superleague clubs on a week to week basis. We are frequently asked if this is a realistic ambition and our response is always the same. We are endeavouring to make this Club the best it can possibly be.

If we don’t take aim for the stars then we will never reach them. If we were ever to settle for second best then we would inevitably end up with third best. We may never reach the stars but it will not be through want of trying.Giving up on those ambitions is not an option. The return to promotion and relegation has opened up fantastic opportunities for the Eagles.

The chosen method of restructuring Superleague and the Championship was not our preferred option but we intend to fully exploit the opportunities that it presents. With this in mind it is vitally important that we are fully involved in the development of a new community stadium on the Don Valley Stadium site.

An Olympic Legacy Park for Sport, Health Sciences and Wellbeing is being proposed for the site and at the heart of the Legacy Park will be a multi-sports community stadium. On one side of the stadium there will be a new through-school, which will be fully integrated into the community stadium to ensure that physical activity is embedded within the fabric of the school.

The stadium itself will have a floodlit all-weather playing surface allowing for maximum use by all partners with the Eagles and possibly Titans as anchor tenants. Proposals are also being worked on for other parts of the stadium. Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) are evaluating the opportunity to relocate part of its Centre for Sports Engineering Research in the stadium, along with a new University Technical College (UTC) for Human Sciences and Digital Technology which is being developed in partnership with SHU and Sheffield College.

We are working on plans for a clubhouse to be incorporated into the stadium and will be seeking help from our supporters and sponsors over the coming months to help facilitate this. The first stage of this process has been a request from Ian Anniss (the Eagles’ Director of Community, Development and Education) to complete a short questionnaire in support of the proposed UTC. You can go to the questionnaire and answer the four short questions here:

Finally, we would like to thank Mark and the whole playing squad for adapting to the many changes forced upon them this season. The demolition of Don Valley Stadium not only deprived us of a playing venue but also an indoor and outdoor training location with an on-site gymnasium and weights room. For part-time players where time is such a premium these facilities have been integral to the successes achieved over the last decade.

The re-location to the outdoor facilities at the new SHU sports grounds on Bawtry Road (which presently has no gymnasium) has disrupted those established preparation patterns. This together with having to become accustomed to the narrow pitch at Owlerton may have caused the slightly indifferent performances early in the season.The players are, however, a credit to the Club and as they have become accustomed to their surroundings the performances have shown a marked improvement and we look forward with confidence to the rest of the season.

We are firmly of the opinion that the future remains bright for Sheffield Eagles and although we appreciate that there are many hurdles still to overcome on our journey to the stars we remain committed to giving our best to achieving it.

Ian Swire
Chairman – Sheffield Eagles RLFC