‘Sport is in our DNA’ – How Sheffield is cementing its tag as the city of sport

Years of hard work and a series of major sporting events over the last few months have led to Sheffield cementing its tag as the city of sport.

Tuesday, 20th August 2019, 13:42 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 14:31 pm

That was the message from city leaders as the Underwater Hockey Age Group World Championships – the latest in a series of international sporting competitions held in the city – continue at Ponds Forge this week.

The venue has also been named as a Swim England National Performance Centre for the work City of Sheffield Swim Squad, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield do in training swimmers.

Sheffield also played host to the UK Invictus Trials in July, which saw around 500 injured or wounded ex-servicemen and women, former greats competed in the World Seniors Snooker Championship at the synonymous Crucible Theatre earlier this month and Bramall Lane has just been confirmed as one of nine host venues for the UEFA Women’s European Championships in 2021.

Richard Caborn at the Olympic Legacy Park.

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Mr Carborn said the city attracting such events was the result of decades of hard work to improve sports facilities.

He said: “This has not just happened overnight or by coinicidence – we have developed the ‘city of sport’ label for the last 15 to 20 years.

“I think we have developed a critical mass of sports facilities that are second to none and that makes us very attractive for people to come and hold their events here.”

The Olympic Legacy Park in Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

The Lower Don Valley was transformed when the Sheffield Arena and Don Valley Stadium were built for the 1991 World Student Games.

And the city has gone on to host more than 1,000 sporting events since, including 450 international, 470 national and 200 city or regional competitions.

Mr Caborn said: “We’ve had the ‘city of sport’ tag since the World Student Games and I think the fact that we have developed around the English Institute of Sport over the last few years adds to that.

“It’s clear that we are at the leading edge of sports facilities as we’re home to elite athletes such as boxers Anthony Joshua and Nicola Adams and other athletes hoping to compete and win medals at the Tokyo Olympics next year are training in the city as we speak.”

Sheffield Steelers in action at the Sheffield Arena. Picture: Dean Woolley

Don Valley Stadium was demolished in 2013 and has been replaced by the ever-expanding Olympic Legacy Park, which Mr Caborn is the project lead for.

The site includes a school and university technical college; Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre and Food Engineering Centre are under construction, agreement has been reached for a lease to build a stadium that will be the base for women’s football and rugby league games and there are ambitions for a Child Health Technology Centre.

Sheffield Arena, iceSheffield and the EIS also neighbour the site.

The Invictus UK Trials were held in Sheffield in July. Picture: Simon Hulme

Mr Caborn said: “The Olympic Legacy Park is bringing all of the sporting elements we have as a city together. There are not many places where you’ve got ice hockey, rugby, women’s football, basketball and athletics all near enough on the same site.

“I think what we have that’s unique is the fact that we took the ethos of the London Olympics and used it in a way that no other city or county has done.”

The former Sheffield Central MP said other cities and countries looked at the city ‘with envy’ and he had recently welcomed a Japanese ambassador to the OLP to see how they can make the most of the legacy from the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

As well as hosting a number of events this year, Team GB’s wheelchair basktball team, who have their own court and facilities at the English Institute of Sport, will fly out to Poland later this month in the hope of at least making the semi-finals, which would see them qualify for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Coun Mary Lea, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure, said ‘sport was in Sheffield’s DNA’.

She added: “We’ve said it time and time again, and I’ll say it again – Sheffield and sport go hand in hand, it’s in our DNA. Our sporting prowess was recognised in 1995 when we were named the UK’s first National City of Sport and this remains at our core, growing and thriving at every level.

The Invictus UK Trials were held in Sheffield last month. Picture: Dean Atkins

“In recent years, Sheffield has successfully invested £40 million in major new sports facilities through pioneering partnerships between the Council and Sport England, sports governing bodies and the Department of Health.

“This investment has been in a range of sports including football, cycling, cricket, basketball, swimming and disability sport, as well as brand new, state of the art leisure facilities at three sites, which has resulted in significant increases in participation across all fields.”

Sheffield has also been confirmed as one of nine cities and towns across the country that will host the UEFA European Women’s Championship in 2021, with The Football Assocaiton confirming Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane as one of nine venues.

It will also host the Rugby League World Cup in 2021.

Coun Lea aded: “We cannot be beaten on our offer of top-class facilities, quality outdoor spaces, accommodation, leisure and entertainment, plus our ability to deliver at the highest level, which is why high profile sporting bodies, such as World Snooker, The FA, The RFL, The Olympics, Sport England, British Cycling, BMC and many more, choose to come to Sheffield and keep coming back.

“These credentials continue to attract other sporting organisations to the city and this year we’ve welcomed new national and international events, such as The Invictus UK Trials – a whole week of competition across nine sports in three venues – and the World Underwater Hockey Championships at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre. And, we’ve got plenty more excitement to come as we look forward to hosting games in 2021 at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium in both the UEFA European Women’s Championship and the Rugby League World Cup.

“We know that maintaining our city’s reputation as a world-class sporting venue takes commitment, ambition and money. We will continue to work with partners across the city and beyond, and take every possible opportunity to make sure Sheffield stays on top of its game.”

The Invictus UK Trials were held in Sheffield last month.
The Rugby League World Cup will be played at Bramall Lane in 2021. Pictured ae James Simpson and Coun Mary Lea.