Martin Smith column: will Sheffield become a second rate sporting city?

Steel City unplugged - is Sheffield missing out on top music names?

Monday, 31st October 2016, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 3:38 pm
The Premier League feels such a long way away for Sheffield's clubs.

So ran a Star headline a couple of days ago reflecting an apparent trend for the very top names in entertainment to swerve the city on their world tours.

Perhaps we should get used to it. We’ve been missing out on the biggest names in football for ten years.

Make that 16 if you’re a Wednesdayite.

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It’s hardly noticeable at first, and we can convince ourselves that we’ll be back and what we have is still something special. This is Sheffield, after all.

But once you lose the big names they take a lot of getting back. Take the city centre shopping experience said by many to have been in decline for decades.

We’re having to knock down vast swathes of the old city to build another glass and plastic palace to attract ‘high-end’ retailers back to what used to be a thriving shopping venue.

All because we didn’t keep up and didn’t act when the rot started to set in. And when is Sheffield mentioned as a major football city on the national stage?

Rarely and then only with an air of bewilderment and a hint of ‘thank God it’s not us’ usually reserved for discussions of neighbours’ kids who’ve gone off the rails. The Premier League has moved beyond anything it was even in Sheffield United’s relegation season a decade ago.

Since then the top of English football has been rebooted, refinanced and reinvented into the world’s super league.

But Bournemouth and Watford are thriving up there while Wednesday and United look on with envy.

For the ‘lesser’ teams to break in to that money-mad minority takes vision, talent and a lot of luck.

And, of course, graft and money to prime the pump.

So are we missing out on the megastars in our music venues and does it matter if we are?

It hardly seems noticeable at the moment.

But once a city falls out of the big time it can easily be left behind.

Decline happens by small degrees, bad decisions and missed opportunities.

Of course it wouldn’t be the end of the world or the city if Beyonce never came back.

But times change and centres of sporting, entertainment and urban excellence shift.

Sheffield is already losing out in two key areas of commercial and social life that help define a city’s dynamism and popularity.

We should beware losing out in a third.