Date: 30th September 2009 at 9:20am
Written by:

From Vital England:

Sheffield is one of 16 cities currently vying to be one of the final 12 selected as host cities for England’s world cup bid, but what does it have to offer?

We find out, as we ask Nick what he thinks it can bring to the table for the world cup bid…

1) Sheffield has applied to be a host city, what are the pros of this?
Sheffield has a huge amount of pros to be a host city for the World Cup, not least the fact that Sheffield FC is, of course, the oldest football club in the world, and is recognised by FIFA for this.

That aside, it boasts two big teams in Wednesday and United – both of who are improving their stadia to be able to host matches should the England bid be successful – who’ve enjoyed recent success in the top flight, and both can more than hold their own in the top flight, with their history, fan base etc.

Wednesday, of course, hosted matches at Euro 96 so have previous experience, and have also enjoyed using Hillsborough as a neutral venue for big matches, the latest being a League Cup final replay between Middlesbrough and Leicester City some years back.

I think the fact that both teams average over 20,000 in the second tier of English football says a lot, and it won’t just be Sheffield that celebrates if the World Cup comes to the Steel City, it’ll be fans of other local clubs such as Barnsley, Doncaster Rovers, Rotherham United and Chesterfield to name but a few.

As a city, it’s going places. It already hosts the World Snooker Championships and has an array of top sporting venues aside from football, including Don Valley Stadium, the Institute for Sport, Sheffield Arena and Ponds Forge.

It has one of the biggest student populations in the country, with two universities, and a diverse population across the city.

2) And the cons?
The only cons I can think of at the moment are that both grounds, Hillsborough and Bramall Lane, are not up to standard yet. Both have plans in to be, and both plans look good, but they’re always going to be a way off Wembley, Old Trafford, the Emirates etc.

That said, the WC needs to come to Yorkshire and the Midlands, and I think the two stadiums are further along than rivals from Leeds and Nottingham are, so we’re the stand out bid from our region, in my opinion.

We also have the Hillsborough disaster which, of course, and sadly, will always be related to our stadium. Hopefully that won’t have much of an impact on the decision, though.

3) Is Hillsborough up to the task of staging a world cup game at the moment – if not will it come 2018/2022?
Not at the moment, but we’re in a group of a fair number that have shown what we plan to do to improve our stadium, and with the current chairman we have in place, he’ll get it right, there’s no doubt about that.

We hosted games in Euro 96 with no problems, but I admit it does need a lick of paint since then – it wouldn’t take loads to get us up to scratch though.

Transport wise it’s excellent – we have the Supertram that goes straight to Hillsborough from the train station – we’re just a short way off the M1, and the bus links are also excellent.

One other huge plus, which has to be taken into account, is the huge Hillsborough park directly opposite the ground which would be ideal for pre-match and post-match activities that we see so often at major sporting events. This is a huge plus for Wednesday, it’s a huge, open space, which could easily house a fan park.

We’ve had plans to increase the capacity, totally re-do the West Stand (Leppings Lane) and fill in the corners. From the images, Hillsborough will be a magnificent stadium, not only with top facilities, but, equally as important, keeping the traditional English ‘feel’ to a ground, which is so lacking in some ‘bowl’ stadiums which are now being built.

4) What is Sheffield most famous for?
Steel! I’m not sure if the top eggs at FIFA will know about The Full Monty, but I’m sure that could also swing it for them.

We could get the Arctic Monkeys in on the act – they’re big Wednesday fans, while Michael Vaughan and David Blunkett are other known Wednesday ‘celebs’.

Sheffield also hosts the World Snooker Championships, and does a damn good job of it, even though the scale will be vastly smaller than a World Cup.

It still has its industrial roots, but is adding a touch of the future to it year by year, and it’s better for it.

We also have Meadowhall for all the WAGS to go shopping.

5) What would it mean to you to see the world cup converge on Sheffield if successful?
It would be magnificent. I remember Euro 96 and the atmosphere it created around the city for the two weeks that games were held at Hillsborough. It totally changed the city, for the better, and I’d imagine it would be even better this time around.

Also, from a selfish point of view, it would be amazing to see some of the best players from around the world playing at Hillsborough, and really put the stadium, and the club, back on the map.

6) Come on, hand on heart, tinted specs off, totally unbiased view will Sheffield be successful with the host city bid?
It really is a tough one to call, but, hand on heart, I believe Sheffield really should be successful with the bid.

We all know there are a few cities who will get the nod, and there are a few who are fighting it out for the other spots, but in Sheffield, you have the history, not one but two clubs, the facilities, and also the friendly Yorkshire folk who’ll make the experience a brilliant one.

I firmly believe we’ve got the better of Leeds, and I’d be shocked if they were considered ahead of Sheffield, and football should come to Yorkshire, with Sheffield being the leading candidate.

The only negatives would be the proximity to Nottingham and Leeds, and how realistic our stadium plans are.

7) Most importantly, do you think that England will be successful with the 2018/2022 world cup bid anyway?
I think so. We have one of, it not the, biggest and best competitions in the world in the Premier League, and our attendances in leagues below dwarf respective leagues in other countries. The love for the game is there, you can see that in the England travelling support.

We hosted Euro 96 without a glitch, and it’s been years since we hosted the World Cup.

We don’t need to mess around building new stadiums – they’re already here.

Full article: England – What Sheffield has to offer (Wednesday).