Wakefield are edging closer to a move out of their historic Belle Vue home after becoming frustrated at the lack of progress on a new ground.
Belle Vue is one of the surviving stadiums from rugby league’s first season in 1895 but has been declared “an embarrassment to Super League” by Trinity chairman Michael Carter.
Hopes of a move to a new site near the M62 have stalled despite planning permission being provisionally granted in 2012. Last September, Carter and fellow director Chris Brereton put plans to ground-share with Dewsbury for the 2017 season on hold after agreeing, in principle, to a deal with new owners 88m Group.
However, the area around Belle Vue resembles nothing more than a building site and Carter says the Dewsbury move could be back on by Easter.
“When we launched our season tickets in the second week in September, we gave a six-month deadline for something concrete to happen and virtually nothing has happened in that four months,” Carter said. “We went to see the owner before Christmas and he seems relatively confident of getting a scheme together that will provide a retail park and a new stadium but the clock is ticking. He asked us to wait until Easter and we agreed to do that but we can’t let this drag on. We’ve put it off twice in the last two years and the ground has got no better. I cringe at times when I see young kids running around in the ground and some of the hazards that are out there.
“Myself and Chris have got to the stage where we are no longer willing to put our necks on the line, especially in a day and age where corporate manslaughter is all too prevalent. It would be a crying shame to move out of the district. It would leave Wakefield with no professional sporting team and it would be a very sad day because this is the oldest rugby league pitch in the world and it feels like the bits around it were built in 1873.
“I’ve said it before, we’re an embarrassment to Super League. You go to the majority of grounds and they’re clean and inviting and there’s a good view for everybody and you come to us and it’s terrible. If nothing happens, it’s Dewsbury here we come [in 2018].
“With a bit of hindsight, we probably should have gone at the end of last year. We’re definitely not crying wolf.”
Wakefield fans had a potential glimpse into the future when Trinity played a pre-season friendly against Dewsbury at the Tetley’s Stadium last Sunday.
“It provided an ideal opportunity not only for us to see a match day in progress there but for our fans to see one as well and, from the feedback I’ve had, Dewsbury is perhaps not the devil they thought it was,” Carter said.
“We’ve already got plans rolling to move to Dewsbury for 2018. This is last-chance saloon in terms of this ground.”
Wakefield, who are holding a ballot of their business partners for the naming rights for Belle Vue in 2017, have agreed to house Sheffield Eagles in the new season for a nominal rent.
The Eagles’ first Championship home game against Toulouse will be played after Wakefield’s opening Super League match against Hull on Sunday, February 12, but expect to have the ground to themselves for the majority of the time with a reduced capacity of 2,000.