Spalding Academy leaders have dropped a “bombshell” on sports clubs in the town by giving them five months to find other training sites.
Archery, cycling, football and trampolining clubs have all received a letter from South Lincolnshire Academies Trust (SLAT), which runs the former Sir John Gleed School, telling them that site hire has been suspended.
Under the new regime our young international archers, in particular, would have had their aspirations dashed through no fault of theirs or the clubsDan Smith, chairman of Silver Spoon Bowmen of Spalding
SLAT has put its decision down to the poor state of its all-weather pitch, the safeguarding of students, security of the site in Neville Avenue, Spalding, and the “additional pressure” put on site staff.
But Dan Smith, chairman of Silver Spoon Bowmen of Spalding archery club which has used the school site for more than 20 years, said: “During that time, there has not been one instance where our presence on the premises has caused the school or anyone associated with it any problems whatsoever.
“However, since the Academy came under new management that changed abruptly as meaningful communication with the new management team was problematical.
“From being trusted, long-term users of the site, we were made to feel unwelcome and had our access to the premises restricted.
“So much so that had we taken up this year’s contract, we would have spent as much time setting up as we were shooting.
“Archery requires hours of practice and hundreds of arrows to be shot for an archer to progress.
“But under the new regime our young international archers, in particular, would have had their aspirations dashed through no fault of theirs or the clubs.”
Andy Ringsell, of Abbey Hire Fliers Trampoline Club, said: “The all-weather pitch is nothing to do with us, we operate outside school hours and have welfare procedures at least equal to the school’s.
“Our space and roof height requirements, a minimum of 7.5 metres were met perfectly by the hall we use at Spalding Academy, a hall we were told had very little use due to it having only one badminton court.
“There are no other trampoline clubs within the area for members to train at and the uncertainty brought on by this bombshell may cost us members because parents will understandably be nervous to let their childre join, despite our reassurances.
Spalding Academy’s all-weather pitch is used by girls’ and youth football teams from both Spalding United and Pinchbeck United.
A statement from Spalding United’s Girls’ Football Development Office said: “We are very disappointed that Spalding Academy has seen it fit to take this course of action after a long and detailed discussion between us and the former Sir John Gleed School to allow us the use of the all-weather pitch and also part of the school field by the various female teams within the club.
“This arrangement allowed ladies, under-18, under-15 and more junior squads to train at the school and to hold home league and cup fixtures for both ladies and under-18 teams.
“The facilities at Spalding Academy are, on the whole, excellent and apart from two weeks in March following heavy rain, the all-weather pitch has provided a perfectly adequate surface to play on during the winter.
“The decision to suspend lettings will severely impact on our training and the establishment of more all-female teams within the club at a time when the Football Association is investing millions of pounds into increasing the number of women and girls playing football.”
Also affected by the decision is Spalding Cycling Club which uses the school for its off-road cyclocross races that attracts about 300 riders from across the county and region.
Gary Bentley, Secretary of Spalding Cycling Club, said: “Cyclocross riders can compete on all-terrain courses, safe from contact with road vehicles.
“The school field was an ideal venue but we did not use the all-weather pitch, did not require any staff assistance on the day and the event was on a Sunday when the pupils are not attending.
“So we are baffled by the reasons given by Spalding Academy and we will genuinely struggle to find an alternative venue as the other options in the town already have regular users on Sundays.”
John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, has offered to mediate between the sports clubs and Spalding Academy once the reason for SLAT’s decision is made clear.
Mr Hayes said: “Clearly, it’s really important that the school retains links to the community and anything which impedes or endangers that would be highly undesirable.
“But I want to hear from the school about its reasoning before coming to any judgement of my own as its decision can’t be completely arbitrary.”
The Lincolnshire Free Press approached SLAT for a comment and a spokesman said it would respond after the Easter school holiday.
But in a letter to Abbey High Fliers seen by the Free Press, SLAT said: “The priority of the Trust is the education of the stidents whilst they are under our care and we feel this is best met by discontinuing lettings.”