Wakefield Council has approved a £6m (€7.05m/$8m) funding pot to support the district’s three rugby league clubs, chiefly through investment in stadium facilities.

Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Members have approved the new Rugby League Resilience Fund that will offer a grant of up to £2m each for Super League duo Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity, along with second-tier Championship outfit Featherstone Rovers.

The funding plan will support all three clubs to meet the current, and potential future, Rugby Football League (RFL) conditions on stadium facilities as well as improving community use at the sites.

Cllr Michael Graham, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “We are very pleased to have made this decision which recognises that rugby league is at the heart of our towns and city, with a very proud history. All three clubs have fantastic support from their fans and already make valuable contributions to communities in our district.

“With this new support to Wakefield Trinity, Castleford Tigers and Featherstone Rovers, we can help prolong the heritage of potential Super League rugby being played in the district. At the same time we can help the clubs widen their grassroots reach in the community and create more inclusive facilities that will meet the needs of even more people in our district.

“This can bring many benefits to our district’s health and wellbeing, as well as encouraging young people to aspire to achieve their dreams and goals in life.”

The decision comes days after the Tigers pivoted away from plans to develop a new stadium in favour of redeveloping its historic Wheldon Road home. The Tigers last week confirmed that they are in discussions with Wakefield Council and the owners of the proposed new stadium site at Junction 32 of the M62 motorway near Glasshoughton about the possibility of staying at a revamped Wheldon Road rather than relocating.

Castleford said it would use the proposed Rugby League Resilience Fund investment to help towards funding a major redevelopment of Wheldon Road to bring the club’s home, which opened in 1926, up to modern standards. Subject to securing the investment necessary, key elements of the club’s proposals would be to demolish and rebuild a new Main Stand, and modernise the existing Princess Street Stand, Railway End and Wheldon Road End.

Mark Grattan, managing director at Castleford Tigers, said: “All three professional rugby league clubs in the area are so involved at the heart of their communities. Therefore, we at Castleford Tigers are delighted to hear that the Rugby League Resilience Fund has been passed by cabinet, and the club looks forward to working with Wakefield Council in this regard.”

In November 2020, Wakefield Trinity put the construction of a new 2,500-seat stand at the heart of its Belle Vue redevelopment after submitting a planning application. The club said the project at the stadium that it has called home since the 1870s would be “the most significant within the stadium for 75 years”.

The plans, which were developed since Trinity purchased the freehold of the 9,000-capacity Mobile Rocket Stadium, Belle Vue in March 2019, include construction of a new 2,500-seater East Stand to include a large hospitality and conferencing facility. A 4G pitch suitable for all weather use by both club and the community will be installed.

John Minards, chairman of Wakefield Trinity, said: “Following several months of positive and productive discussions with Wakefield Council, and Wakefield Trinity, we are delighted with the establishment of the Rugby League Resilience Fund.  

“For our club, the Fund will make a significant contribution of our stadium redevelopment plans which will themselves bring enormous benefits not just to the club but also to the people and communities of Wakefield.”  

As part of the agreement clubs will need to produce and deliver a Community Use Strategy as part of the funding agreement. This would show how the clubs will increase community use and support and encourage the growth of grassroots rugby league.

As part of this, the Council will receive an annual report on the usage and the wider impact of the usage on the community. The Council will also work with the clubs to ensure they are able to demonstrate real impacts on health from the community activity they carry out.

Image: Castleford Tigers