£5 million stadium plan could make Sheffield first city to have specialist women's football ground

Plans for a £5 million stadium on the site of the Olympic Legacy Park could lead to Sheffield becoming the first city in the country to have a ground used solely by female footballers.

Wednesday, 1st August 2018, 1:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st August 2018, 4:33 pm
A computer generated image of what the stadium wood look like.

The proposals, submitted to Sheffield Council earlier this week, could also save rugby league club Sheffield Eagles, who will also be based there, from financial woes.

Sheffield United Women would become the only female club in the country to have a stadium not used by their male counterparts or academy teams and developer Scarborough Group International said it hoped to start work on 'as soon as possible'.

Richard Caborn, project lead for the Olympic Legacy Park.

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Other women's football teams share grounds with their male counterparts or academy teams but the OLP site would be exclusively for Sheffield United Women rather than the club's academy teams.

The 3,900-capacity ground would also be home to Eagles, who only last month said that the costs of playing on the 3G pitch where the stadium will be built were 'strangling the club and its future existence'.

Richard Caborn, project lead for the Olympic Legacy Park, said: "This is fantastic news. It's something that we've wanted to do for a while and we have tried to get a developer in and now what we have got is the economies of scale sorted with women's football and rugby, it's all there.

"It opens up some really opportunities for these sports which haven't necessarily got as large a following as other sports."

Sheffield Eagles in action at the Olympic Legacy Park.

The grandstand facility will be built on the west side of the existing 3G pitch and will also include conference facilities and office space.

Mark Jackson, of Scarborough Group International, said work would be carried out in stages and between 500 to 750 would be built in the first phase with standing terraces around the rest of the stadium.

He said: "This will be the start of an important phase in realising the vision of the park, bringing forward significant private sector investment. We plan to start on site as soon as possible, once we have finalised the necessary documentation with Sheffield Council.

"The Olympic Legacy Park is a great facility that the schools and the council have invested in and it's just for us to come along and put the finishing touches to in terms of building a stadium."

Mr Jackson said, subject to being granted planning permission, the firm hoped to start work on site by February and the development would take around a year to complete.

Sheffield United women are due to get their season underway next month after being granted a place in the FA Championship - the second tier of the women's game - as a reward for their work on and off the pitch in recent years.

Mr Caborn said the developer was 'in discussions' with Sheffield Eagles to firm up a commercial deal but added the club had been offered 'priority' fixture dates for its games in the Betfred Championship.

Eagles were forced to play out of the city for four years following the closure and demolition of Don Valley Stadium in 2013 and last month reported that the annual cost of using the facilities on the OLP in Attercliffe had nearly quadrupled from an initial estimate of £30,000 - already significantly more than it had paid in previous seasons - to more than £115,000.

Mr Jackson said: "We had held discussions with the Eagles and they have also said they have suffered from not having a home in Sheffield and we can appreciate that because it's much easier for people wanting to watch them to get on the tram to Attercliffe instead of having to go to Wakefield.

"Once the stadium is up it will be a proper home for Eagles as well as Sheffield United Women. Making it available to them is a condition of the paperwork."

Sheffield Sharks basketball club is also hoping to build a community arena on the OLP site and managing director Sarah Backovic said talks with bank bosses over loan decision were continuing.

Sharks were given one month to finalise a financial plan which would enable them to build an arena on the OLP by Sheffield Council a fortnight ago.

The club is hoping to build the arena together with Park Community Arena Ltd and open it up to pupils from Oasis Academy Don Valley.

Ms Backovic said: "The talks with the bank are going well. We are working within the timeframe given as much as we can and are around two weeks from the deadline.

"The Eagles and Sheffield United Women stadium plans doesn't affect us at all but we wish them all the best."

A Sheffield United spokesman said the club did not want to comment 'at this stage' and no-one at Sheffield Eagles was available for comment.