BREAKING: Sheffield Eagles to play home games in Wakefield next season

Sheffield Eagles will play home games next season at Wakefield Trinity Wildcat's Belle Vue stadium

Sheffield Eagles will play home games next season at Wakefield Trinity Wildcat's Belle Vue stadium

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Crisis-hit Sheffield Eagles will be playing home games nearly 30 miles up the M1 in Wakefield next season – but could be back in the city by June.

The cash-strapped rugby league club, who currently play at Sheffield Hallam University Sports Park on Bawtry Road, will play ‘home games’ at Super League side Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

Fans will face a trek up the M1 to see their beloved Eagles play

Fans will face a trek up the M1 to see their beloved Eagles play

Eagles General Manager Liam Claffey said: “It’s disappointing that with the stadiums and facilities we have on offer in Sheffield no one could support the club during what has been and remains a very difficult period, to ensure we remain in the city.”

He added: “We explored all options in Sheffield and further afield in the South Yorkshire region and there was sadly nothing available to us.

“We are sure our supporters will appreciate our predicament and support the temporary move before we finally get a permanent home in the city.”

But former Sports Minister and Sheffield MP Richard Caborn said the Eagles could be playing at the Olympic Legacy Park in Attercliffe for the second half of next season, which kicks off in February.

The rugby league club are hoping to eventually move into the Olympic Legacy Park in Attercliffe

The rugby league club are hoping to eventually move into the Olympic Legacy Park in Attercliffe

Paul Billington, director of culture and environment at Sheffield Council, said they had funding for an artificial Rugby League grade ‘state-of-the-art’ pitch and floodlights as part of the Olympic Legacy Park which will be ready next year.

He said: “We’ve secured investment for the pitch and the floodlights and the Eagles would be ready to play there next year.”

The club has been battling financial difficulties and fans have raised £20,000 to help keep the club running.

Sheffield Eagles were desperate to stay in their home city – and have voiced disappointment a new home could not be found.

Happier days when the Eagles won the Challenge Cup in 1998

Happier days when the Eagles won the Challenge Cup in 1998

Loyal fans will now have to travel out of Sheffield up to Wakefield to watch their beloved Eagles. It is the second time the club has been forced out of the city – they played a season in Doncaster in 2015.

But former Sports Minister and Sheffield MP Richard Caborn said the Eagles could be playing at the Olympic Legacy Park in Attercliffe for the second half of next season, which kicks off in February.

Eagles general manager Liam Claffey said: “It’s disappointing that with the stadiums and facilities we have on offer in Sheffield no-one could support the club during what has been and remains a very difficult period, to ensure we remain in the city.”

But Mr Caborn said the Eagles may not be out of Sheffield for too long.

Sheffield Eagles' former home at Don Valley which was knocked down in 2013

Sheffield Eagles' former home at Don Valley which was knocked down in 2013

He said: “The pitch, floodlights and fencing at the OLP will be sorted for play at the start of June next year.

“If we can get some temporary seating, and a stand installed like we had at Bawtry Road, that could be a solution to get the show on the road.”

In September this year, an unnamed Sheffield-based investor told The Star he wanted to build a rugby stadium, costing up to £7 million, in the Olympic Legacy Park, and a £35m green power plant nearby, which he says will help fund the club.

Both the power plant and stadium would still need planning permission. The site of the power station is currently set aside for housing and light industrial use.

It is understood talks are still ongoing between the investor and planning officials at the council regarding this proposal.

Ground condition changes by the Rugby Football League has meant the Eagles’ current home at Bawtry Road is now unsuitable and a new venue was needed.

Sheffield Eagles

Sheffield Eagles

Paul Billington, director of culture and environment at Sheffield Council, said the authority had secured funding for an artificial Rugby League grade ‘state-of-the-art’ pitch and floodlights as part of the Olympic Legacy Park in Attercliffe, which will be ready next year.

He said: “We’ve secured investment for the pitch and the floodlights and the Eagles would be ready to play there next year.

“In terms of anything further such as a stand, turnstiles and changing rooms for example, we were never in a position to offer that sort of investment.

“We understand why they’ve taken the decision to play in Wakefield next season.”

The club moved to Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium for the 2010 season to play some home games as well as Don Valley.

Don Valley was later knocked down and stints at Owlerton Stadium in Hillsborough and a season at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster followed before the move to Bawtry Road.

Fan Simon Waller, 35, of Bents Green, has been a season ticket holder since 1992.

He said: “It’s going to be a pain but at the end of the day it seemed like at one point we wouldn’t have a club at all.

“It won’t be overly popular but loyal fans, the hardcore who go week in week out, will accept having to travel if it means Sheffield Eagles carries on as it is.

“What we will lose is the casual fan who has a mild interest in rugby league and Sheffield sport who may go down two or three times a year to support the club.

“Going to Wakefield could be an interesting move. Trinity are a Super League club and we could get some supporters from Wakefield coming to watch us, or if we play before Trinity as some sort of warm-up it could be positive.

“As long as the move is not for four or five years then I’m quite optimistic about the whole thing.”

Mr Claffey added: “We’d like to thank everyone at Wakefield Trinity, and especially chairman Michael Carter, for supporting us and making this move a reality.

“Wakefield have been fantastic from the outset and very helpful and accommodating during what has been a very difficult time for the club.

“We explored all options in Sheffield and further afield in the South Yorkshire region and there was sadly nothing available to us.

“We are sure our supporters will appreciate our predicament and support the temporary move before we finally get a permanent home in the city.”

Four of the Eagles home fixtures – Toulouse Olympique on February 12, Featherstone Rovers on March 12, Dewsbury Rams on April 17 and Halifax on June 11 – currently clash with Wakefield fixtures.

The club said it will be working with Wakefield and away opposition to arrange alternative times.

Cheaper season tickets have also been announced and subsidised travel for fans is being looked at.

Wakefield chairman Michael Carter said: “Wakefield Trinity are delighted to assist the Eagles on this matter. Having struggled with numerous ground issues ourselves, we know how difficult running a rugby league club can be, and we will do all we can to make Belle Vue a home for the Eagles in this coming season.

“I look forward to watching the Eagles play at Belle Vue this coming year, when time permits, and can only thank all the officers at the Eagles for making this an easy process.”

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