Sheffield gaining record attendances but struggling with stadium costs

Sheffield have pointed out plenty of positives in a recent statement but are immensely struggling to pay for their Olympic Legacy Park home.

The Eagles returned to the Steel City earlier this year after spending four years on the road due to the demolition of Don Valley Stadium.

The club has made big strides off the field though. Attendances are the highest they have been since their final year at Don Valley Stadium and commercial revenues are higher than anticipated, with many agreements in place for the next couple of years.

Sheffield are now working within the local community and partnered amateur clubs which they were forced to neglect due to their season-by-season life at four different stadiums between 2014 and 2017.

The Eagles claim they have big plans to grow rugby league further in the Sheffield region and have even brought on board two new directors to continue with the Scarborough Group and Sheffield United regarding next season and the future stadium to be built at the Olympic Legacy park.

However, there are ongoing issues with the amount of rent they need to pay for their Olympic Legacy Park home.

A statement read: “Last October, club chairman Chris Noble MBE and chief operating officer Liam Claffey met with leaders from Sheffield City Council, Legacy Park Limited, Pitch Operators Pulse & Richard Caborn.

“At this meeting, after detailed discussions Sheffield Eagles were asked what it could afford, it was explained to the meeting, the club could meet the same amount of funds stated it had to spend whilst the club were facilitated at Wakefield in 2017, circa £27,500, per annum for full use of facilities.

“A figure was given of £30,000 to facilitate the club at the Olympic Legacy Park in 2018 (more than the club has spent on any season, adding inflation whilst were at Don Valley Stadium which also included first team training and the club’s offices both of which are now separate additional costs).

“No parties suggested this was untenable and would require more investment than this however at this time, costs will stand nearly four times this by the end of the 2018 season. During certain meetings we had representation from The RFL who approved our 2018 budget based on this information. These costs are not only far more than what was budgeted but also in excess of what other clubs in our league pay to their local authority for use of facilities.

“Higher costs for facilities than agreed along with other costs not anticipated are now strangling the club and its future existence which is even more heart breaking after the hard work gone in to ensure the club returned to the city after our home was taken away from us in 2013.

“During our four-year life on the road the club never requested any support from Sheffield City Council or other parties associated with the Olympic Legacy Park and when the decision was taken to award the site to Sheffield United and Scarborough Group the club handled this decision with dignity and respect to ensure a smooth and as quick as possible development of a suitable stadium on the site.

“The club has now requested financial support from the City Council through a repayable loan (with interest) to bridge the gap until a stadium is built on the site but, disappointingly, there is “Little Appetite” from Sheffield City Council to grant this, even after a senior council official described the Olympic Legacy Park when handed to Sheffield Eagles to play as ‘we are renting to you a stadium not fit for purpose’ and strongly implied £40,000 of the costs towards temporary seating and toilets would be covered. Again, this support hasn’t materialised, and no assistance will come.

“The club and all those involved with it will continue to work extremely hard as they always have done to ensure the best future for Sheffield Eagles and Rugby League in the City but the odds, through no fault of our own, are sadly stacked against us once more.”

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