A statement from chairman Chris Noble MBE
To My Fellow Eagles,
On behalf of everyone at Sheffield Eagles I hope that you and your friends and families are keeping well as our country still battles with the Coronavirus pandemic.
It has been a testing and trying time for us all, especially those affected directly by Covid-19 and my thoughts are particularly with those people and everyone who has been working so hard on the frontline.
It does not feel like a little over three months ago we were at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium to see us progress to the next round of the Coral Challenge Cup, reaching the sixth round for the first time since 2014. At the time we believed we had secured a potentially lucrative tie versus Hull FC, how times quickly change.
It has been a roller coaster of emotions since then as the pandemic took hold and we all had to adapt to the ever-changing landscape both in the game and the nation.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our supporters. From our dedicated and loyal fan base, you are a credit to the Eagles and the sport. We may not be large in number at this time, but we would not exist without you and your patience with us has been extremely welcome.
Our supporters also include our generous and understanding sponsors and club partners. They have all fully understood the difficult situation the club has been placed in, as have most of their businesses but yet they have stood steadfast with us which has ensured no further burdens were placed on the club.
After the match on Sunday 15 March against Workington we as a club acted fast and to the then rapidly developing situation, standing the players down on Tuesday 17 March.
All our backroom staff headed up by Mark along with his playing squad I must pay credit to. They all accepted with great ease and understanding the situation facing the club, agreeing swiftly as one to the introduced furlough scheme and have continued to keep themselves in shape at their own homes.
It has been shown what an excellent group we have both on and off the field with the efforts being undertaken for charity during ‘lockdown’ as well. Special mentions to Keith Senior who rode 30 hours on a watt bike as part of a team challenge raising money for Rugby League Cares and Connor Bower raising funds for community rugby league in his hometown of Hull by completing a marathon from there to Skipsea in a wheelchair!
Our Board of Directors and Liam at the office deserve a mention as they ensured this was implemented quickly for the safety and security of our playing staff and two full time employees with the board continuing to work behind the scenes so we can function albeit on a very limited basis.
I can’t confess to using social media myself, but Liam tells me Dan and Alex, our Media Team have continued to volunteer during the unplanned ‘off-season’ providing great content and a big thanks must also go to them.
It would be remiss not to take the opportunity to thank Simon, Ralph, Karen, Tony & the rest of the team at the Rugby Football League also.
It’s easy for some to (wrongly) criticise the RFL as some have done in the past but seeing first-hand the work they have carried out, in particular in relation to their work with government has been nothing short of outstanding and the £16m loan they secured was a welcome relief for the sport.
Here at Sheffield we are looking at the finer details of this and readying our application - as whilst it is hugely positive for the game it is still a loan and will need to be repaid so we must ensure it is beneficial for the club in the short, medium and long term.
The question on everyone’s lips is if or when will we be playing again? We have a Director sat on both working groups and a great deal of work is being done by those groups to look at the feasibility of the Championship & League One returning.
It remains to be seen if the 2020 season will be back and if it is, it will certainly be a different experience to the one we left behind in March.
The Championship has a multitude of challenges some of which that are not faced by the other divisions. We have a mixture of part-time and full-time teams and with that comes different trials and tribulations we must overcome and unique and varying business models across the league.
Several teams have invested significantly for promotion and I fully understand and sympathise with those clubs and whilst we have face difficulties like all, I certainly do not envy their predicament.
Government guidelines may change in the future but as things stand, we would have to carry out a considerable amount of work at a substantial cost to the club for both returning to training and then subsequently playing matches.
We remain open to all scenarios and continue to engage with the RFL, working groups meetings and other discussions as they occur but our stance will be led by ensuring player and staff welfare is fully covered and a viable, secure future will be met for the club.
I for one am certainly missing watching our lads in action and was looking forward to them defending the 1895 Cup!
As soon as we have information we will of course share as soon as we are able to.
Turning to other matters, we continue to have dialogue with the stakeholders involved in the construction of the stadium at the Olympic Legacy Park. Covid-19 has put a halt to any work, but discussions are still positive and confident work will start as soon as possible with us relaying the urgency for this to Sheffield City Council and others.
Again, any updates we will provide as soon as we have them.
Whilst the future remains somewhat uncertain, we are working hard so we can, where possible, control our own destiny forecasting how we continue through 2020 and then prepare for next season and beyond.
2021 is set to be a huge for the sport with the Rugby League World Cup taking place in England towards the end of the year. It was announced last week that the Steel City will be hosting Greece men’s side along with the Wales, Scotland, USA & France wheelchair sides. It will be fantastic to have them based in Sheffield and I am sure they will enjoy their stay immensely.
We need to capitalise on them staying with us and the tournament with significant games in the Wheelchair competition and an England men’s game at Bramall Lane.
A legacy is a key element of the tournament and our community clubs in the city, Sheffield Hawks & Sheffield Forgers are working on plans around this with the RLWC team and the Council.
Likewise, we as a club and our Foundation have greatly missed having a Development Officer in post for the past few years despite the excellent work we still carry out in the schools of Sheffield, albeit on a smaller scale.
Having someone in post once again is a key aim of ours and we will have some exciting news on that front soon.
We are working in collaboration with The RFL, Sheffield City Council and Sheffield City Trust on this to allow us to take full advantage of the World Cup, leave a lasting legacy and hopefully reform our youth development programme in years to come.
I will end by wishing one of our most devoted supporters Martin Brooks a speedy recovery and hope that he departs from hospital very soon.
I look forward to seeing him and the rest of you, back watching the Eagles again once more, of course when it is safe for us all to do so.
Keep safe and keep well.
Chris Noble MBE