Is this the end for rugby league in Sheffield?
There have been times in the past when the future of Sheffield Eagles looked bleak, but there has never been a situation as grave as the one that currently faces the club.
Even through the last two months the noises coming out of the club were ones of positivity, that a takeover could be completed. But chief executive John Whaling’s admission to The Star that red tape with the council looks to have scuppered a potential takeover, and director of rugby Mark Aston’s emotional review of the situation on local radio, suggest that even the most loyal and committed members of the club are now deeply concerned over the Eagles future.
Why are the Eagles in this mess? Well, there are a number of reasons. Investors jumping ship, poor gates and no permanent home are just three factors. Now the club have turned on the council who they say are not helping in their hour of need.
After losing a key investor, and Ian Swire’s decision not to fund the club further than the end of this season, there is a void that needs filling.
The club thought that they had that man, but whilst the takeover of the club would appear straightforward, the mystery investor will only complete if he can expand his energy company into the region. That’s where the club’s frustration has hit boiling point, with Whaling stating that the council’s delay in giving the green light for the investor’s potential land purchase has left any potential deal hanging by a thread.
Is this situation all down to the council? It would be unfair to lay all of the blame at that door. But should everyone be working tooth and nail to save the club? Absolutely. For the good of Sport in the city, the club has to be saved, but time is running out fast.
What next? Whaling says they have a month before the money runs out. If the takeover doesn’t happen, and there is nothing concrete to suggest it will, then the club will have to be placed into administration. That would then be a 12 point deduction, relegation to League One and no home – an even less attractive proposition for any potential new owner. That is the grim reality facing the club and its fans. The end is very much a reality.