Tuesday, May 5, 2015

News: Titans knock on Oakwell's door

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If Rotherham Titans, the town's successful rugby club, can make it into the top flight of English rugby next season then its home matches are set to be played at Oakwell in Barnsley.

Following another excellent Championship season, the Titans secured a playoff position for the Rugby Premiership and are locked in battle with table-topping Bristol. Rotherham almost caused a mighty shock in the first leg of the Championship semi final, before hosts Bristol rallied late on to take the tie 32-20.

The return "home" leg on May 10 is set to be played at Abbeydale Sports Club in Sheffield in a similar situation to the finale of last season. Rotherham's Clifton Lane ground is owned by Rotherham Athletic Company with the 1905 lease stating that the cricketers of Rotherham Town CC use the field from mid-April.

Rotherham Rugby Club had put in a request to ground sharing Rotherham Town to play the final home league fixture against London Scottish at Clifton Lane. However, the negative response from the cricket club meant the Titans had to find an alternative venue to host the game. That fixture, which the Titans won 19-3, and any playoff games, are being played at Abbeydale.

Were the club to gain promotion back into the Premiership, its ground would need to meet strict criteria set by the RFU, the governing body for the sport in England. The Titans' current home at Clifton Lane does not, and development would be difficult. It has been reported that the Rotherham Athletic Company has served notice to rugby club officials that unless a new lease is signed by the end of this September, they they will have to find a new base.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) recently announced that the Rotherham Titans has put forward Oakwell Stadium, home of Barnsley Football Club, as its prospective home venue so that it can be assessed as part of its eligibility for promotion. The 23,287 capacity stadium was also put forward this time last year and following an independent audit report, the ground has satisfied the Minimum Standards Criteria for entry into the Aviva Premiership in 2015/16.

The use of Rotherham United's former home, Millmoor, to stage home matches for the Rotherham Titans looks unlikely after "a commercially viable solution could not be found." Talks took place in 2011 between Rotherham Rugby Club, Rotherham Council and ground owners, CF Booth Ltd. Having relocated to the now demolished Don Valley stadium, the football club moved into a new £20m stadium on the edge of the town centre in 2012.

In the longer term, options being discussed as potential new homes for the Titans include the Phoenix Sports club at Brinsworth, the former OutoKumpu site acquired by Rotherham United for training facilities, the Legacy Park at Don Valley, which will be home to the Sheffield Eagles Rugby League Club in 2016, as well as greenfield sites in the borough.

Clifton Lane has long been a sporting venue in Rotherham, having been the original home to Rotherham Town Football Club in 1882. Ironically, difficulties with the tenancy agreement from the cricket club meant that Town had to move in 1891.

When Clifton Lane was sold to the newly formed Rotherham Athletic Company in 1905, three of the vendors were cricket representatives, hence why the lease seems to favour the cricket team.

Rotherham Titans website

Images: Barnsley FC

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