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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Time to kick ass!

THINGS are definitely moving although not as fast as some would like. I speak of Pow Beck and the prospect of top class sports and leisure facilities of which a state-of-the art stadium suitable for elite rugby league (and community use) is jewel in the crown.

Copeland Council, major shareholders and financial backers of Whitehaven RLFC, decided this week that if all else fails that compulsory purchase of land in and around The Recre is the way to accelerate the scheme and make the dream reality.

Make no mistake, it is going to happen, we’re told. There will definitely be a new stadium as part of a sports village and overall regenerate package costing at least £20 million.

You might be able to build a new grandstand alone for around £1.5 million but that’s bog standard these days. Council and partners are going out for the best and that means getting all the funding partners in place. Opting for compulsory purchase of Haven’s existing play pitch and surrounding land shows to everybody they means business.

It’s not the Miners’ Welfare who stand in the way but largely its parent Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation but if it comes to CPO crunch then a tidy sum of money could still change hands for what has to be seen as valuable real estate.

It’s the end product that counts and the local authority does not wish to ride roughshod over anybody. The hope is that the local miners group can still play some part in the future.

While the new stadium will be designed to Super League standards it certainly won’t stand and fall on that because the aim is to provide first class leisure and community facilities for the community en masse.

But of course this is the perfect opportunity for Whitehaven RLFC to work up a Super League franchise application within the next three years – it simply wouldn’t be happening without the sports village!

Haven might conceivably get by on lower level but good standard rugby league for ever and a day, but paying customers, especially the younger generation, want something better. Put the right facilities in place and fans old and new could come flocking through the gates, that’s the hope.

It could take at least 12 months to do a deal over the requisite Recre real estate, then perhaps a fair while longer to start developments, but time is of the essence if Haven have to any genuine chance of getting a super league licence next time round. How the team shapes up on the field of play will also have a big bearing on which teams get the passport up in three years.

And I have to be a little sceptical of how serious existing 14 Super League teams will grab the opportunity over the next three years to bring through lots of their own local talent, one apparent reason for scrapping promotion and relegation. You can be sure no one will want to come back down and not only Whitehaven will be hell bent on going up, so it’s going to be a scrap and that’s why Haven have to step up the game on and off the field.

This week’s Board meeting, besides fine tuning the impending appointment of a chief executive, was concerned with the new regime’s business plan aimed at making sure there are no future financial impediments.

Chairman Dick Raaz tells me that cash-flow wise the club remains “close to the wind” so things have to be sorted out once and for al without having to rely on the vagaries of gate receipts. But it does means every potential spectator clicking through the turnstiles starting on Sunday with the visit of Batley – last season’s bete noire!

We all remember what happened last time around. A disastrous home defeat on Easter Monday, a lot of fallout not least Paul Crarey being rushed to hospital and Ged Stokes being appointed as the new head coach, not to everybody’s liking but Mr Stokes lost no time in making critics eat their words.

It’s Northern Rail Cup time, also a clean slate, for despite the improvements of last season it won’t be good enough in 2009 just to be best of the rest now that two more fulltimers – Salford and Celtic Crusaders – have gone up.

Sunday’s individual spotlight falls on Aussie recruit Jamie Theoharous paired up with either comeback maker Carl Rudd or Gregg McNally at half back – rotating, I’ve no doubt, at some stage of the match.

But the message has to be no slip ups, Batley must be sent packing. Or as Haven’s charismatic Yankee chairman puts it – “We have to start kicking ass” – Batley’s!

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