The Sheffield Eagles Heritage Project is managed by the Eagles Foundation, working in partnership with the Sheffield Eagles.
The Sheffield Eagles Heritage Project will collect, record and share the history of the Sheffield Eagles Rugby Football League Club. It is a two-year project running from 2022 to 2024, led by the Eagles Foundation and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The Reason for the Project
Since the Club played their first game on 2nd September 1984 there have been highs and lows, with plenty of stories to be told about the Club, many of them never collected or shared before. This project is a chance to look back to where the Club has come from but also look forward to the future at a time of change and new opportunities for the Club.
The Sheffield Eagles
For up to date details about the Sheffield Eagles, current fixtures, how to buy tickets, events, merchandise and the latest news about the men's, women's, wheelchair and LDSL (learning disability) teams then visit their website - CLICK HERE.
Who is the Project For?
The project is for existing supporters of the Club, potential new fans, past and present players of the Club, past and present coaching staff, those involved in setting up the Club, heritage enthusiasts, local schools and the broader community of Sheffield. It is a project not just for fans of the Sheffield Eagles and Rugby League but anyone who wants to uncover and hear about interesting stories.
The Eagles Foundation
The Eagles Foundation is a registered charity with a vision of “harnessing the power of sport to make a lasting, positive impact on individual’s lives”. The Foundation works in partnership with Sheffield Eagles Rugby League Club to create opportunities for people to get involved in sport, improve their wellbeing and engage in their local community. The Eagles Foundation remains an independent charity and is governed by a board of trustees which are entirely separate to the Sheffield Eagles’ board of directors.
In 2001 the Eagles Foundation (formerly the Include Foundation) was the first community foundation established by a rugby league club in England. Over it's history it has worked with thousands of young people in schools, supporting the development of the game. After a dormant period it has re-focused it's activities working with the RFL and Sheffield City Council to appoint a development officer and securing funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Eagles Heritage Project. The Foundation has established women's, wheelchair and physical disability teams as well as delivering a range of community engagement activities. This was recognised in 2022 with the Eagles Foundation being awarded by the Championship Foundation of the Year by the Rugby Football League.
To find out more about the work of the Eagles Foundation search for us on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The project has only been possible thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Eagles Foundation secured just over £90,000 of funding in early 2022 to deliver this project.
There are several elements to the project:
- Researching the archives of the Club, Sheffield Archives and at the Rugby Football League
- Digitising key documents, memorabilia and items from the Club’s past to be catalogued and built into an online database, making them searchable and more widely accessible
- Collecting the stories of staff, players and supporters from throughout the life of the Club, recording and filming their stories through audio and video recordings
- Training and supporting volunteers to take part in the project
- Sharing the stories through a website, pop-up exhibitions, learning packs, publications, films, podcasts, events and public talks
- Working with the local community within the immediate area around the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park and the wider city to involve them in the activities
The project aims to achieve the following objectives:
- Record and catalogue for the first time the rich heritage of the Sheffield
Eagles, to provide an accessible, coherent and engaging source of information about the Club’s past
- Highlight the importance of the Sheffield Eagles in the history of Rugby League and the changing face of Rugby League over a time of expansion
- Broaden people’s understanding of what heritage means, particularly that the story of a Rugby League club has relevance in terms of social, economic and cultural changes over the last 35 years
- Engage a wide range of people in researching the story of the Sheffield Eagles, developing their skills, experience and confidence
- Create a framework for recording the future heritage of the Sheffield Eagles once this project is complete
The project has a number of key themes that project aims to focus on:
- The story of the Sheffield Eagles - from originally being established to the
current Club - hasn’t been collected and shared consistently. There are gaps in information and there is a wealth of interesting stories to be collected, curated and shared.
- The Sheffield Eagles have faced challenges since they were first formed, and throughout their history, which many other clubs wouldn’t have survived
- There is a sense of family about the Club amongst players, staff and fans -
whether from fans supporting the Club for decades, the commitment of staff to keep the Club going or players maintaining links with the Club after they have left
- Rugby League as a sport is more inclusive than people think - the Sheffield Eagles now have a men’s, women’s, wheelchair and learning disability team under the #OneTeam banner
- For a relatively small Club, it has had a significant impact on the sport of Rugby League, the City of Sheffield and the local community and does not necessarily receive the recognition it deserves
- Nomadic existence: The Club has never had a permanent base and has played “home” games at, at least, nine different grounds. There are opportunities to trace this nomadic existence at a time when it has moved into a more permanent Sheffield base after 9 years “on the road”.
- The formation of the original Club: Talking to those who first set it up, the motivations, the struggles and the achievements.
- The merger: A turning point in the game of rugby league when the Rugby Football League provided £1m if certain clubs merged. The decisions was taken to merge the Sheffield Eagles with Huddersfield, meaning the city of Sheffield didn’t have a club.
- The formation of the “phoenix” Club, after the original Club was merged out of existence: Talking to those who set it up, the struggles and barriers they faced.
- Heritage Numbers: The Club’s voluntary statistician has collected details of all players since the first game in 1984, assembling the list of heritage number – all players who have played for the Club in order. These are not widely available to the fans and most of the players don’t know their heritage numbers. With the establishment of the women’s and wheelchair teams in recent times there is a chance to record, capture and share their details alongside the men’s team.
- Hall of Fame: The Club launched it’s Hall of Fame in 2009 to celebrate those people who had made a significant contribution to the success of the Club. These were last added to in 2014 but it has been relaunched by the Heritage Project, alongside a new Roll of Honour for non-players. Members of both can be used as a starting point for further interviews and research.
- Players from around the world: The Club has a history of players coming to play from around the world including Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, France, America, New Zealand, Canada and Australia. There is a chance to talk to them about their memories of coming to Sheffield and the cultural differences they experienced.
- Challenge Cup win in 1998: Considered by many to be the greatest upset in the history of the cup. There is a chance to record the recollections of players
asd supporters of that historic day.
- 1895 Cup win in 2019: A return to Wembley 21 years after their last appearance – meaning the Club is unbeaten at Wembley. There is a chance to record the recollections of players and supporters of that historic day, comparing and contrasting it to the previous win at Wembley.
- Playing in the first game in Super League: Playing the first game in the new competition, against a team in Paris. A chance to record the recollections of players and supporters who were there.
- Being a club outside the rugby league heartlands: What that means to those behind the Club, the experiences of supporting a club outside the heartlands and the experiences of travelling around the country.
- Supporters’ memories and what the Club means to them: There are still supporters of the Club who were at the first game in 1985. There are supporters of all ages and backgrounds, who have come to the game at different times. There is the chance to understand what difference rugby league and more specifically Sheffield Eagles has meant to them.
- The changing of the shirt design over 35 years: There are opportunities to look at changes over time in terms of shirt manufacture, change in design trends and people’s memories of shirts. For example one of the shirt designs features prominently in the film The Full Monty.
- The changing face of the Attercliffe area of Sheffield: This is an area associated with the Club for 30 years since the opening of Don Valley Stadium. This was the home to Sheffield Eagles until it’s demolition before the building of the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park Community Stadium 9 years later which saw the Club return to the area.
- What it’s like to be a player: Their motivation and reasons to keep playing, rugby league isn’t the most highly paid sport particularly at the Championship level (the level the Eagles are at). At this level the players are part time, working at their other jobs in the day and training in the evening.
- Family Atmosphere: There is a sense of the Club as a family and part of people’s lives. For many of the Eagles’ fans it is more than just watching games. It’s where they’ve met their partners, it’s a chance to spend time with their own families and it’s a constant in their lives when things are difficult.
- Women’s team: The Eagles had a women’s team in the late 1990s. There are still many of the original Eagles women’s players around in Sheffield, watching the men’s team, part of the wheelchair team or involved in rugby league in other ways. In 2021 a new women’s team was established and they secured
promotion in their first season.
- Wheelchair team: The Eagles Foundation established a wheelchair team in 2021 and with the recent Rugby League World Cup there has been an increase of interest in the wheelchair game. The Eagles team has players of all ages, open to all genders and those with a range of disabilities (or none at all).