Alan Biggs: Eagles move closer to landing at Owlerton

Alan Bigg Telegraph
Alan Bigg Telegraph

The Eagles could be just a week away from landing in a new home – with talks on a return to Owlerton Stadium at an advanced stage.

Stadium managing director John Gilburn tells me he is “very, very hopeful” of providing a refuge to Sheffield’s homeless rugby league heroes who were forced to quit the doomed Don Valley Stadium on the day of their greatest triumph.

But a chunk of Eagles’ old ground could yet be joining them at Owlerton amid talks about dismantling and reassembling a 1,200 seat section of one of the stands. Scrap value of £80,000 is currently considered an excessive price for the rugby outfit to match, although talks are ongoing.

What is more likely is the move itself, which is not conditional on importing the stand. The Rugby League are prepared to freeze certain criteria – like new floodlighting and safety matting behind the try line across the speedway track – for the first 12 months.

As an act of faith in a go-ahead, Eagles have done some essential seasonal work on the pitch at their own cost. Under the deal, the club would pay Dave Allen’s A and S Leisure (who also run greyhound racing) a nominal rent and the stadium would have catering rights.

Eagles are still seeking financial help from Sheffield council to ensure they are not forced to leave the city. Gilburn added: “We’re about 10 days away from a definite decision and we’re very keen for Eagles to move to Owlerton.”

There is a consensus that it would be a tragedy if the city were to lose its most successful team in any sport at a time when the demolition of DVS remains such a contentious issue.

Heritage is also driving it. As Gilburn points out: “Eagles used to play here and we have also done sponsorship deals with them in the past. They contacted us a few weeks ago and in that time we have had numerous meetings with them.

“Obviously there are a number of difficulties but the Rugby League have been flexible and supportive.”

With so much goodwill driving the talks it would be a major surprise if Eagles did not once again find a nesting place at Owlerton. There’s a joke in there somewhere - but this is a serious business in sight of a happy ending.