Why playing at a stadium like the Keepmoat hurts

Don Valley Stadium: Home to Sheffield Eagles and the Millers
Don Valley Stadium: Home to Sheffield Eagles and the Millers
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OFF to Doncaster at the weekend for a South Yorkshire derby game in the Northern Rail Cup at the Keepmoat Stadium. The clubs play in different divisions of the Championship so competitive games don’t come around often – which for me is fine.

Don’t get me wrong I want the Dons to earn promotion this season. But a trip to the Keepmoat hurts – it shows Eagles fans how life could have been.

The Dons play their rugby league in one of the best stadia used by the game. A purpose-built venue for the fans of team sports. It’s part of a complex that includes a second pitch surrounded by a running track. Vitally in the Keepmoat you’re close enough to the action to risk a secondary injury when the tackles go in.

On the way to Doncaster I’ll pass the Eagles ‘home’ for more than 20 years – Don Valley Stadium. Probably the greatest municipal ‘folly’ in this country.

The pitch is fine - it’s had lots of care lavished on it by Rotherham United in their time as a lodger while the New York Stadium is under construction – but before you find the grass you have to traverse the wasteland of a running track.

The track may be the only stretch of tarmac in Sheffield without a pothole but it’s a barrier between the fans and the game.

Back in the Cold War the Russians didn’t need to build the Berlin Wall. They should have just put in a running track - same result … isolation.

Don Valley Stadium is part of the ‘legacy’ of the World Student Games of 1991 – current debt to the people of Sheffield £234million. That’s a lot of cash for a posh swimming pool (Ponds Forge) and a stadium with 20,000 plastic seats most of which are never polished by a bum.

One then local politician said the WSG was Sheffield’s ‘window on the world’ – well someone put frosted glass in it.

The 1990-91 season saw Sheffield Eagles move in and they seem to have been trying to get away ever since.

Sheffield International Venues, who run Don Valley, are keener on the Eagles this season.

In the past the rugby league seemed to rank just slightly above computer fairs and model car racing.

Could it be because SIV’s bit on the side, Mr Miller of Rotherham, is moving out?

It’s a marriage of convenience for both parties with the Eagles hoping to ‘play away’ as often as they can – but the boys at Bramall Lane have offered only three dates so far this season.

The Eagles have eight games planned for DVS and five more ‘venue to be confirmed’ so all concerned had better take the long view - you can’t do anything else with the pitch so far away.