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Why plans for a giant football sculpture beside M1 in Sheffield could be rebooted

A giant illuminated football could greet drivers arriving in Sheffield via the M1, with the ambitious plans set to be revived.

Proposals for the 5.5-metre diameter ball near Meadowhall, which would be nearly 8m tall including the plinth, got the green light from Sheffield Council back in 2010.

How the giant football sculpture beside the M1 would look (pic: Sheffield FC/Ward McHugh Associates)

How the giant football sculpture beside the M1 would look (pic: Sheffield FC/Ward McHugh Associates)

They were kicked into the long grass when the steel firm Outukumpu sold the land, off Shepcote Lane, in Tinsley, on which it was to be located.

READ MORE: This is what Sheffield's giant M1 football sculpture will look like

But the sculpture is now back on the cards as the Sheffield Home of Football movement, which was launched to better celebrate the city as the birthplace of the beautiful game, gathers momentum.

The initial plans were put together by Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest football club, to promote what it described as two of the city’s greatest exports – football and stainless steel – and bolster its ongoing campaign to relocate from its current home in Dronfield to the city in which it was founded.

The football sculpture would be illuminated at night (pic: Sheffield FC/Ward McHugh Associates)

The football sculpture would be illuminated at night (pic: Sheffield FC/Ward McHugh Associates)

READ MORE: Logistics developer snaps up Meadowhall steel site for £8.5m

The ball, which would have been lit from within at night, was due to have been built by local firms, donating their time and materials for free.

The site was bought in 2017 by Peel Logistics Property, and The Star revealed earlier this year how Amazon was believed to be in talks about opening a giant warehouse at the business park which is planned there.

READ MORE: Internet giant Amazon to bring 1,000 new jobs to Sheffield

Sheffield FC’s chairman Richard Tims believes this could be the perfect opportunity to revive plans for the sculpture, especially with Amazon recently having bought the rights to screen Premier League matches.

“I’m interested in putting it back on the agenda because there was a lot of momentum behind the idea before the site got whipped from underneath us,” he said.

READ MORE: Giant heart at Meadowhall gets pulses racing about towering Steel Man sculpture

“The Sheffield Home of Football group will be contacting Amazon to see what its thoughts are about reviving this project.

“With the might of Amazon behind it and growing support for the Home of Football agenda, there’s no reason this shouldn’t happen.”

READ MORE: The forgotten father of modern football from Sheffield buried in an unmarked grave

One obstacle could be the fact that since plans for the giant ball were mothballed, proposals for a huge Steel Man sculpture overlooking the M1 and designed to rival the Angel of the North, have captured the public imagination.

Many of Sheffield’s manufacturing firms have lent their expertise to that project, and it is hoped the new landmark will be in place by 2020.

READ MORE: FA Cup coming to Sheffield as part of major football exhibition celebrating city’s role as ‘crucible’ of modern game

With a series of soaring chimney sculptures also planned to replace the demolished Tinsley cooling towers, it remains to be seen whether the appetite exists for another large statue beside the motorway.