Rotherham v Bristol: Titans aim Sky high as TV cameras arrive at a price

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: Rotherham's players gather for a training session.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: Rotherham's players gather for a training session.
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There is a quiet rehabilitation unfolding in Rotherham – quiet because the rest of the country seems to pay no heed.

Rotherham Titans are defying budgets, history and expectation levels to play on the nerves of the big boys of rugby union’s Championship.

And down the road at the New York Stadium, Rotherham United are proving equally adept at confounding critics and ruffling feathers.

Such feel-good vibes emanating from both clubs have added a spring in the step of the town’s people, who not so long ago had to go to Sheffield to watch their football team and had grown accustomed to a rugby side that trod water in the second tier – not that that is a bad thing.

Nowadays, though, the Millers regularly get close to 10,000 fans at their gleaming, resplendent new stadium in the heart of the community.

And up at Clifton Lane, attendances are nudging 1,500, and the old ramshackle “shed” stand as it is known is bouncing to the beat of Lee Blackett’s marauding Titans.

Today up on the tops of Rotherham, the rest of the country will finally get to see what all the fuss is about in South Yorkshire.

For the Sky television cameras will round on Clifton Lane for the first time ever when they broadcast the Titans’ game with leaders Bristol at 4.45pm.

It is long overdue major exposure for not only the club, but for the town, because despite having a stadium good enough to grace the Championship and winning promotion and claiming Cup scalps in their first 20 months at the New York Stadium, Rotherham United have still to welcome television cameras to their new home for a live game.

It is a source of irritation for Millers manager Steve Evans, who believes the progress being made by his promotion challengers is being overlooked by the rest of the country.

That television exposure would also bring with it a large sum of money for the football club.

In the world of rugby union, however, it is a different story.

Overdue as it is, today’s interest in the Titans’ renaissance has come at a heavy price to the club – £20,000 to be exact.

Rotherham have had to purchase temporary floodlights for a game that will go beyond dusk, and have had to acquire tracking for 38 tonnes of trucks to drive over so as to not damage the cricket square that will be used from May onwards by Rotherham Town Cricket Club.

“It’s come at a cost but it will be a very good day for Rotherham,” says club chairman Nick Cragg.

“This is great for not only the club but for the citizens of Rotherham that they have two sports clubs that are punching above their weight.

“As far as the rugby club is concerned it’s nice to get the acknowledgment and hopefully we won’t let ourselves down.

“We have been helped out by a couple of sponsors, Pyronix and Parseq, who have chipped in to help out with the cost of this and that has been valuable for us.”

Rotherham will have to come up with the money again on April 19 when the Sky cameras return for a Yorkshire derby of enormous magnitude, when the Titans host their local rivals and fellow promotion hopefuls Leeds Carnegie in the penultimate round of regular-season fixtures.

The Titans could also feature on Sky if they reach the play-offs in May, though that would be at a different, as yet undetermined, venue due to the commitments of Rotherham Town Cricket Club.

“And we’re on the television when we visit Bedford in a few weeks,” adds Cragg, who is beginning to appreciate that success can come at a cost.

“It’s great exposure for us. Anything that puts us in a good light is good for the club and for the town.

“And it helps us with player recruitment and helps reinforce to the community that we are a local club to aspire to.”

Rotherham have already begun strengthening for next season with the news this week that eight players have re-signed including Curtis Wilson, Alex Rieder, Tom Cruse, Dan White, Joel Gill and Jack Preece.

Conversely, the Titans have lost two players, with Ben Sowery and Ben Sanderson joining Worcester Warriors for next season, which enhances the Clifton Lane club’s reputation as a good stepping stone to the top flight.

Of more immediate concern is the visit of big-spending Bristol, who under Andy Robinson top the division.

“We haven’t beaten anyone in the top four yet this season,” says Cragg, whose side sit third, five points behind. “But as we have shown many a time, we have the ability to turn it on.”

Rotherham have submitted Barnsley’s Oakwell and Mansfield Town’s Field Mill as potential “home” grounds they will play at next season should they win promotion to the Premiership.