Petition launched to safeguard future of Sheffield sports club used by hundreds of players each week

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A popular sports and social club located near the birthplace of football in Sheffield has launched a petition to secure its long-term future.

Sheffield Works Department Sports & Social Club (SWDSSC) was set up in the 1920s and its facilities on Heeley Bank Road, in Heeley, are used by hundreds of people each week.

Sheffield Works Department Sports & Social Club chairman Bob Hughes and committee member Peter Sutton

Sheffield Works Department Sports & Social Club chairman Bob Hughes and committee member Peter Sutton

Its grounds are home to 22 mostly junior football teams and eight cricket teams, and the club also hosts the Sheffield City Knights Project charity for adults with disabilities and has a busy social calendar.

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But the club's managers say uncertainty over its future at the site is stymieing vital renovations needed to make the ageing premises fit for purpose.

They are campaigning to secure ownership of or a long-term lease on the three-acre site, the majority of which is owned by Sheffield Council, so they can apply for funding for renovations.

Sheffield FC, the world's oldest football club, began life just down the road at what is now the street maintenance depot on Olive Grove Road, and it is keen to move from its existing stadium in Dronfield, Derbyshire, to the grounds currently occupied by SWDSSC.

The entrance to the clubhouse, which is sorely in need of renovation

The entrance to the clubhouse, which is sorely in need of renovation

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The historic team wants to build a new stadium there but although the chairman Richard Tims says it would be happy to share the grounds with the existing occupiers it has yet to raise the money for the move several years after first announcing its ambitions.

The sports and social club claims the long delay is fuelling doubts over its own future and making it harder to secure funding.

Its chairman Bob Hughes said: "Every time Mr Tims makes an announcement about Sheffield FC's new stadium it has an adverse effect on our business because people start asking if we're definitely getting chucked off.

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"We've been trying to get a long-term lease for 11 years but because of Sheffield FC's involvement it's repeatedly been put off.

An artificial football pitch at the club

An artificial football pitch at the club

"We're seeking to continue to provide first class community facilities at an affordable cost to local organisations serving the community and private individuals from the area and to support the activities of the groups that are associated with the club."

SWDSSC, which feels its plight has been overshadowed by the publicity surrounding Sheffield FC, has launched a petition to resolve the matter by securing the 5,000 signatures needed to trigger a debate at a full council meeting.

More than 4,000 people have signed the paper version, says the club, and the online petition has attracted over 700 signatures within a week of being launched.

Paul Billington, Sheffield Council's director of culture and environment, said: "The council is in talks with both the Olive Grove committee and Sheffield FC. No decisions have been made and discussions will continue."

The entrance to the club's grounds on Heeley Bank Road

The entrance to the club's grounds on Heeley Bank Road

Mr Tims said the site was the 'ideal' location for Sheffield FC but would still be able to accommodate the football clubs currently playing there, and an alternative home would be found for the cricket teams.

"We want to work with the existing tenants but ultimately the decision is down to the city council. All I'm saying is don't shut the door on us," he added.

* The petition is at https://www.change.org/p/sheffield-city-council-swd-club-olive-grove.