Chris ‘hopeful’ after ground-share talks

Date published: Thursday, November 5, 2015

OLDHAM RL chairman Chris Hamilton “remains hopeful”, after meetings with his Athletic counterpart Simon Corney, that Roughyeds will be playing Kingstone Press Championship rugby next season at SportsDirect.com Park.

As men at the forefront of the battle to protect and preserve the town’s sporting landscape at professional level, Corney and Hamilton have met more than once in recent weeks since it emerged that newly-promoted  Roughyeds would need to find a new home, at the very least for their 2016 season.

Whitebank, where they have played in rugby league’s third tier since 2010, doesn’t meet minimum standards for tier two, the Championship, as fixed by the sport’s governing body, the RFL.

Under the direction of League One coach-of-the-year Scott Naylor, Oldham did the town proud by sweeping to promotion on the back of 14 wins in a row to collect both the League Leaders’ Shield and the League One championship rose bowl.

They won 19 of their 22 league games and then smashed Keighley Cougars in a top-two play-off to end a nine-year stay in the ‘third’ division.

That was nearly seven weeks ago and Hamilton says he understands why fans are getting fidgety about the delay in finalising a venue for next season.

Neither club nor fans want to move out of town, as they have had to do many times in the past, since Oldham RLFC (1997) Ltd was launched after the voluntary liquidation of Oldham Bears.

Roughyeds say chairman-to-chairman talks will continue as the clubs attempt to work through various matters which need to be addressed before any agreement on a ground share can be concluded.

Said Hamilton: “I share the frustrations of our fans. The club would love to be announcing admission and season-ticket prices for next season, and getting them on sale, but that’s obviously not possible until we know where we are playing.

“I hope supporters can appreciate that we are not now in direct control of things. There are issues that Simon (Corney) has to ensure are covered before any kind of formal agreement can be settled.

“Among other things, there are potential issues with the wear and tear on the pitch during the winter months.

“We are continuing to move forward though and we remain hopeful.”

Oldham will play their final pre-season friendly against Barrow Raiders at Craven Park on Sunday, January 24, kick-off 3pm.  That will then give them a blank Sunday on January 31 before the start of the Championship campaign on February 7 with a home game against London Broncos.

The Roughyeds’ first warm-up game will be at Keighley on January 10 and if all goes according to plan there will be another one a week later.

Naylor wants three tough and seriously competitive pre-season games and its felt that Keighley and Barrow, at Cougar Park and Craven Park respectively, won’t disappoint.