World's oldest football ground in Sheffield secures protected status
The world's oldest football ground, in Sheffield, has been granted protected status.
Sandygate Sports Ground is used by Hallam FC and Hallam Cricket Club, which have played there without break since 1860 and 1804.
As well as laying claim to being the spiritual home of the beautiful game, it is believed to be the oldest cricket club ground in continuous use in the north of England.
It has now been recognised by Sheffield Council as an 'asset of community value', which it is hoped will safeguard it for many future generations to enjoy.
That means should the owner wish to sell the land on Sandygate Road, it must inform the local authority and give community groups six months in which to prepare a bid.
Several pubs in the city have previously been listed as community assets, in an attempt to prevent them being demolished or converted into housing.
Hallam Sports Club, which is jointly run by the football and cricket clubs using the ground, has around 70 years left on its lease with the ground's freeholder Ei Group, formerly known as Enterprise Inns.
There is no suggestion Ei Group has any intention of selling the land, especially having recently agreed a deal with the cricket club to use an adjoining car park which it owns.
However, the cricket club, which applied for the ground to be listed, believes this will provide added security.
Ei Group last year sold The Plough pub across the road, where the rules to modern football were reputedly drawn up, to a mystery buyer.
The pub had been registered as a community asset and a community bid was put together but the building was ultimately sold to another party.
Hallam Cricket Club secretary Richard Storer said: "We just want to ensure we know if there is going to be any future change of ownership, and we have the chance to bid for the land should that happen. We feel it gives us that little bit of extra security.
"This ground is a phenomenal part of the city's history, with sports having been played there for nearly 220 years.
"We have vast numbers of seniors and juniors wanting to play regularly, so there's clearly a demand in the area for it to remain a sports ground for many years to come."
The football club is also thriving and attracts up to 400 spectators for games, with visitors travelling from around the world due to its history.
As well as cricket and football, the ground also hosts what is believed to be the world's oldest cross country race - the annual Hallam Chase from Sandygate to Stannington and back, which was established in 1862.
Such is the popularity of the cricket club it is seeking to raise around £300,000 for a new pavilion as it has outgrown its existing one.
In the early 1970s, it had just two teams but it now has 22.
More than 150 people between them donated just over £50,000 during a crowdfunding appeal last year and the club now hopes to secure a grant from Sport England or the England and Wales Cricket Board for the rest of the money.
For details of how to donate, email Mr Storer at [email protected]