Rugby League: Bradford's Odsal plan given the green light

BRADFORD BULLS are the closest they have ever been to transforming Odsal into a stadium that fits their aspirations. The club, with the backing of Bradford Council, has announced plans for a 33,000 all-seater venue.

The blueprint would see Odsal's familiar bowl filled to road level, with the pitch turned through 90 degrees. It still has to gain planning permission and there are environmental concerns over methane at the former tip.

The stadium has been earmarked for equally ambitious redevelopment in the past, only for the schemes to fall through. The difference this time is that the club and council are working together and that a firm of developers with a proven track record is on board. "Sterling built the Stadium of Light for Sunderland and this will be a smaller version of that," said the Bulls spokesman, Stuart Duffy.

Work is due to start at the end of this season and would be completed in time for the 2002 season. The club would need an alternative home for 2001, with Bradford City's Valley Parade the favourite. The Bulls have also announced a new major sponsor - the Bradford-based leisure group, Skylark. "These are tremendous times for the Bradford Bulls," said their chairman, Chris Caisley. "A lot of things are coming together, with the council's plans for the stadium and this tremendous deal from a local company."

The new Sheffield Eagles club have announced four signings, headed by the former Great Britain second-rower Michael Jackson, who played for the previous Eagles when they beat Wigan at Wembley last year. The others are the Leeds scrum-half, Gavin Brown, the Keighley half-back or hooker, Chris Robinson, and John Strange, an Australian full-back who has played for Featherstone and York. "These are the sort of players we can build around and there are plenty more to come," said the club's player-coach, Mark Aston.

The Northern Ford Premiership fixtures, completed now that Sheffield have been admitted, start with Dewsbury visiting Batley on Boxing Day in a noon kick-off. The champions, Hunslet, start the following day at home to Keighley.

The League is to clamp down on the proliferation of water-carriers scurrying on and off the field during matches. In future, they will only be allowed on to the playing area after a try has been scored.

Clubs have backed the League's efforts to change the international rule on substitutes to allow a total of eight changes involving four replacement players, rather than the unlimited interchange in vogue at the moment.