One of Doncaster’s leading amateur teams - and a thriving sporting community - is searching for a new home.
Danum Eagles basketball club will end their 17-year association with Danum School this summer as a result of cost-saving measures by Outwood Grange Academies Trust.
Eagles currently field a men’s team in the National League, three junior teams and cater for hundreds of youngsters at regular mini-basketball sessions.
Under the stewardship of award-winning American head coach Bob Martin they have become a shining example of the role sport can play in the community.
But from July 31, ahead of the new domestic season in October, they will require a new base after Outwood Academy bosses decided, with the Danum site in special measures, to prioritise education over sport.
Following back-to-back promotions, Eagles’ men were relegated from EBL Division Two last season after being forced to play their home games at The Pods in Scunthorpe in order to satisfy league requirements.
They will return to Doncaster this year and there is no threat of the club folding. But where they will be based currently remains up in the air.
“Danum School was taken over by Outwood and they came in immediately and told us they had no interest in sport,” Martin told the Free Press.
“Initially they said they would leave us in because of the community involvement. They said we’d definitely be in there for the next year so I thought we would have a 12-month period to work on.
“And then last month we got called in and they told us we were out. I asked why. They said it was confidential. July 31 is our last involvement in that sports centre.
“I knew it was coming because they have no interest in sport.
“We’ve started looking, I’ve been talking to Hall Cross School and we have satellites around the Doncaster area.
“The best facility is Campsmount Academy [in Norton] but that’s another trip out. We want to get our crowd back.
“The Scunthorpe move was a negative because it separated our crowd.
“We were only getting 25 to 30 people at Scunthorpe and we used to get 150 packed into that place at Danum.”
Martin revealed the Eagles have held talks with Doncaster Deaf School, Hall Cross Academy, Campsmount Academy, Balby Carr Community Academy and also Club Doncaster officials about their next move.
He said: “We need a new home, ideally somewhere they would say ‘you’re in and we want you’.
“Hall Cross have said that but whether we can make that work we don’t know yet. We’ve got to get in there and measure up.
“We want to have a home like Danum for all of our teams.
“Next year we’ll have under-12s, under-14s, under-18s and the men. They play their games through and the atmosphere is fantastic.
“Doncaster has a fantastic basketball crowd. Everyone in the league said to us ‘we love coming to your place, it’s the most exciting game of the year’. We had the cheerleaders and the whole community would get involved.
“We went to Scunthorpe and the opposition coach would say ‘Bob, what’s happened?’. The travelling distance hurt us and the times available for playing the games.
“We lost three guys for work commitments - they’re not professional players, we don’t pay them.
“Aaron Price was starting guard for two years but he only played half of the games. George Colwill was the same. We didn’t lose a game when George played, he’s that good, but his job wouldn’t allow him to have the hours.
“In the winter time travelling over to Scunthorpe, although it’s only 25 to 30 miles, people looked at it [and chose not to].
“They were perfectly nice to us [at The Pods] and they did everything we asked but it’s not a basketball facility.
“The seats are well back from the court, whereas at Danum the fans are almost touching you.
“That was why we had to go to Scunthorpe because the league said you need a six foot run-off and we only had five and a half.
“But we were ready to play at Danum this year and now we have to find a new place.
“What we do is important and Outwood has written us off like it has no value,” he added.
“Over the years we have had so many kids come through our door.
“Everything is in place in terms of what we bring - we just need a new base. I’d be happy to listen to any suggestions if anyone wants to pick up the phone and give me a call.”
The uprooting is further disruption for a men’s team already coming off the back of a difficult year.
After joining the National League in 2014 and blowing away their opposition in Division Four and then Division Three, life in the second tier was notably tougher - a challenge not made any easier by the switch to Scunthorpe.
They were relegated on the final day of last season following a ‘home’ defeat to London Greenhouse Pioneers.
However, Martin is convinced the club can quickly bounce back.
“We’re planning on going to Spain or France for a pre-season tournament, just to get the guys positive again,” said Martin.
“I’ll tell you right now, we’ll win the league. We will.
“All of the lads that have left we’ve replaced them with younger lads who are really keen.
“And we still have a nucleus of seven or eight players who just want to play for the next five years.
“This was a tough year for a few different reasons,” he added.
“Ross [Stafford - previous men’s coach] has major commitments with his dad’s business.
“My son [Mathew] did a lot of the coaching, which is not ideal. He’s the best player and he needs to concentrate on the game.
“There was about five minutes to go in the last game and we had to win to stay up, but I had a feeling we have to go down and come back up again rather than trying to stay in this league for the sake of it.
“We were offered the chance to go back in, a team dropped out, but we all met and decided we didn’t want to.
“We need to rebuild. We’ve got four young guys coming back and there’ll be some really good additions.”
Danum Eagles were formed in 2000 by Danum School’s chair of governors Eleanor Hammill.
Danum Academy converted to Outwood Grange Academies Trust on September 1, 2016.
A spokesperson for Outwood Grange Academies Trust said: “We have worked closely with Danum Eagles over the last academic year but going forward are forced to focus on our core business of teaching and learning with a view to securing an outstanding educational provision for the young people in our care.
“We are working with Danum Eagles to try and support them in finding another home and will continue to do so - however, all our efforts must be channelled into addressing the inevitable challenges of a school that has been in special measures for some time and still requires improvement.
“In addition we are looking to move to a single site as split site schools can be detrimental to education and opening Leger Way for this is an expense we cannot afford.
“It is also worthy of note that another Outwood Academy in Doncaster was offered as an alternative.”
Anyone interested in discussing this matter further with Bob Martin can contact him via email: email@example.com.