SHEFFIELD Eagles have started to build their case for returning to the Super League by winning through to their first Grand Final.
A place in the final is one of the key criteria a club has to meet when bidding for a ‘licence’ to join rugby league’s elite competition.
“Our first ever Championship Grand Final … this is absolutely fantastic. It means that we have ticked the box to apply for the Super League in three years,” said chairman Ian Swire.
“We have the stadium by playing at Bramall Lane and Sheffield United sent us a congratulation e-mail when we got to the final.
“The next step will be to boost the crowds.”
The Eagles were one of the founder members of Super League in 1996 – playing in the competition’s opening game at Paris St Germain.
They dropped out at the end of the 1999 season but a new club was launched following a supporters’ revolt against the forced ‘merger’ with Huddersfield Giants.
In 2006 the club won promotion to the Championship – the second tier of the game.
Swire, who has been chairman since the club was reborn, said the priority is building attendances at Bramall Lane where the club has played the majority of their home games in the past two years.
In 2011 average attendances for the nine games at the Lane was 1,166 – well below the target of a minimum average of 2,500 set when Widnes Vikings won their Super League place earlier this year.
“We need more people to come and support us and if we do that we can get back into Super League,” said Swire. “We have a fantastic arena at Bramall Lane.”
Sheffield Eagles fans will hope to celebrate their biggest win in over a decade with victory over Featherstone Rovers in the Championship Grand Final on Sunday. And we want you to cheer them on with good-luck messages to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Eagles chairman Ian Swire has praised the The Star for the way it has supported the Eagles – in contrast to indifference by other media in the city.
“Except in The Star, we struggle to get media coverage,” he said. “Local radio doesn’t seem to know we exist – only the The Star follows us.
“We have been told by local radio that if we got to the final we’ll get ‘live’ coverage but quite what that means we’ll see. It’s very disappointing because this is the most successful team in Sheffield at this time and it’s a fantastic achievement to get to a Grand Final.”