Salisbury athletics club locked out from its home track

Amidst the biggest boom in running and athletics the city of Salisbury has ever seen, the running club at the heart of it has been locked out from the running track where it has built its success for the past 25years.

The lock-out was instigated by South Wilts Grammar School for Girls, in response to a disagreement over the introduction of new fees it intends to charge City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club for use of the running track. Since 1st November, the school has become sole key-holder.

Over 100 junior athletes, some of them ranked nationally, were forced to train in the car park of Fiver Rivers Leisure Centre.

Around a hundred children, some as young as nine and some of them disabled, were affected by the school’s action. The club’s team of volunteer coaches promptly rearranged the planned training sessions and held them instead in the adjacent leisure centre’s car-park, within the confines of a safety cordon the club put in place to salvage something for all the young club members present.

“This was a hugely disappointing episode and we believe the school’s action to have been ill-judged,” said club chairman Lee Ness.

“As recently as a month ago, the school wanted to start charging the club £50 an hour given the amount of time we use the track. It’s an exorbitant rate that would have bankrupted the club, and it bears no relation to the value of the facility.

“This sum was reduced in a draft agreement a few days ago to a far more reasonable £200 per month which we were on the verge of accepting. But suddenly, in what was to be a final agreement, the school then laid claim to ownership of our clubhouse – which we built and paid for more than ten years ago!

“Now the school has changed its stance again and is demanding around £1,000 per month: that’s eight times higher than the club paid previously to Wiltshire Council to use the track. A voluntary organisation like ours simply cannot afford to pay that much, and the school knows that.”

The club has well over 400 members, aged 8-80, drawn from Salisbury and a wide radius beyond.

Ness points to the massive contribution the club makes to the community, young and old alike; that it is markedly successful in what it does; is held in high regard within the sport; has a strong team of wiling volunteers; fosters participation and inclusion among all parts of the community including the disabled; and has up and coming young champions in different disciplines of the sport and top performers among the senior ranks too.

“We want to continue to build on our success and further grow our benefit to the community: that has been our outlook for a quarter of a century and remains unchanged. But all of it is clearly in jeopardy if the interests of our club members are not recognised,” he concluded.

For further information please contact:
John Ruskin, City of Salisbury A and RC press officer
077177 18045

Letter to Club Members with regards to the Athletics Track Use

From Lee Ness, Chairman of City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club on behalf of the club committee.

As most of you will be aware, our club is now in a difficult situation with regards to the use of the track. This led to the situation on Thursday where the club was unable to gain access and some of our groups trained on the car park. While this was done safely with excellent supervision of coaches, club officers, helpers and parents, it is clearly not what any of us want.

Because of the fantastic response from the members and public, the School and Wiltshire Council have responded; by letters from the school to the parents, a statement on their website and in response to the Salisbury Journal. For our part, we are run by volunteers with full time jobs and so our response is naturally slower as we must bring the committee together before we can respond officially, so I hope you will forgive the delay. This letter is the first stage of our response and it is right that it should be to our members first.

Our club has operated on the athletics track, continuously and without issue for 25 years. We have been working hard on the replacement of the track for the last three years. Throughout this process, our aim has been to come to an operating agreement with the school that continues in that vein and protects the status of our club for future generations of athletes of all types, ages and abilities. The school have always maintained that they are not prepared to contribute financially to the track, neither to the funding of the replacement, nor the maintenance. This is a situation the club has always been aware of and had to accept in our planning for the future.

The track was due to be replaced in 2017. We believe we have a viable plan for the club and the track which achieves this objective. We have shared all our information with the school on numerous occasions. The school have not yet accepted our plan and were not prepared to draw the Sport England Funding until the financial plan and contracts had been agreed. This was the stage of the negotiations until recently.

It is our view that the club has always been an outsider to the discussions between the school and the council. After securing the funding, the two parties refused to allow us to be involved for almost a year while they negotiated the handover of the track to the school. In recent times, we have been summoned to meetings arranged between the school and the council at short notice, with no agenda and no minutes. At one of these meetings a few weeks ago we were informed that Wiltshire Council would hand over the running of the track to the school on 01 November. We believed until that point that this would only occur once the track refurbishment, and the contract with the club, was completed.

At a subsequent meeting, ten days ago, this was confirmed and we were then told that the rates for hiring the track would change. Although this was a difficult meeting, it seemed like a reasonable agreement had been reached for the interim operation of the track, until the new one was laid. The club agreed with the interim Heads of Terms which would form an operating agreement and we also agreed to pay 100% of the available income from the track funds to the school, which amounted to £200 per month.

Unfortunately, late last Friday evening, we received the formal version of that agreement and several clauses had been added with respect to equipment and particularly the club house that we could and would not sign up to. We attempted to negotiate this with the school but we were left with an ultimatum: sign the contract or pay £20 per hour. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford to pay what amounted to £300 per week, considering the school already knew our limit. We can’t pay more than 100% of what we earn. We continued to try and resolve this, but in the end this led to the school informing us that we would not be able to use the track without one of those two agreements. This was 32 minutes before Thursday’s Quad Kids session was due to start.

This is the situation in which we now find ourselves. Our Club Officers are working with our legal representative to find a way to resolve this in a way that allows the continued survival of our club. While there is bound to be some short-term pain, I hope you all understand that we can’t in any conscience follow a path that would lead to our destruction.

The school has made a statement and of course this is from their perspective, where the above is from ours. However, there is some misinformation in their statement that I am duty bound to correct for our members.
The business plan developed by the club was created on instruction by the Sports Development officer for Wiltshire Council to show how we would be able to offset the running costs. The club were never, despite numerous requests, provided with details of those running costs, nor did we believe them to be realistic. Our business plan was only intended to offset costs so that the school had no financial contribution. We have since shown that the costs were incorrect and our updated plan covers the correct costs. Additionally, the original agreed plan was that the club had full control of the track and its income outside of school hours. This was changed by the school without consultation and led to a further review of our business plan.

The delay in the interim agreement for which the schools claims no responsibility before has been described above. The school changed the terms after the meeting with no consultation and without any notice. We could not agree to the new terms. The school has made no concession on this.

The date of handover between Wiltshire Council and the School was not communicated to the club until the end of September, despite what the school claims.

As a club we will continue to work hard to assure our continued survival. If you have any questions going forward, please submit them via email to me, or via the club Facebook page.

Lee Ness
On behalf of the committee of
City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club

Domoney takes sixth at US cross country

Jaymee Domoney of City of Salisbury athletics and running club, currently in his first year’s studies at Charleston Southern university in the US, made his mark at a regional cross country championships event in Virginia.

On a hilly 8k course he was sixth freshman home in a high quality race, crossing the line in 26min 35sec to help his college team to third place overall, their best result in more than 20 years.

He has one more race over the country, at 10k, before his schedule switches to the indoor track season.

Closer to home in the Hampshire cross country league, a sizeable squad of Salisbury runners will this weekend face the challenge of a new, hilly course at Petersfield.



Salisbury runners on international stage

Aaron Wilson

City of Salisbury runners flew the flag in Germany and the United States at the weekend, many also competing closer to home.
In the rapid Frankfurt international marathon, Aaron Wilson completed the last of a series of 26milers in an excellent 2hours 32min 41sec, more than a minute quicker than his race in Tokyo earlier this season. With 4,000 training miles in his legs in the past year, he now proposes a rest from racing.
At Brighton, Stuart Holloway sealed another win with a fine 33min 17sec in the Prom 10k, 20 seconds clear of his nearest challenger.
Ruth Thom produced a great run in the mountainous Oakland half marathon in San Francisco, featuring nearly 3,000ft of climbing, her 2.35.06 giving her second place in her age group.
The tough 30mile Exmoor ultra marathon, featuring almost twice that amount of altitude gain, saw Andy Fallon well placed with a good 5.54.06 and Liz Roberts did equally well to complete the challenge in 8.29.51.
The inaugural Breamore 10k near Fordingbridge seemed to some to be almost equally hilly but James Hassan still sped round the course to finish in 40min 28sec for third spot. Jonathan Croom clocked 43.12, just ahead of Sian Thomas whose 43.25 earned her a good second place female award.
Then came Ian Lawrence 44.04, Mike White 46.05 for third in his age group, Charlotte Ingram 49.48, Steve Mitchell 50.05, Nick Hudson 50.58, David Smith 64.30, Andrew Webb 64.53, Denise von Roretz 66.03, Kathryn Dreyer 66.25, Ali Theobald 72.31, Lesley Brown 75.12, Mary Clements 78.32, Christine Webb 81.11, Susan Braidley 85.52, Sue Sheppard 87.20 and Carole Wiltshire 88.21.
In the 5k at the same venue, Tracey Smith clocked 44.30, Christine Romano 44.46 and Vasen Moodley a hard-won 49.53.

Syrett is Salisbury’s best at Great South 10mile

The Great South Run at Portsmouth attracted almost 20,000 runners and City of Salisbury’s Lee Syrett did well to finish among the top one per cent of them despite a tough final mile into a blustery headwind along the seafront.

As a bonus, his time of 63min 45sec was his best ever, knocking more than a minute off his previous mark. Not far behind, veteran Mike Brewster put in another good performance, stopping the clock at 63.58.

Richard Larcombe was another to set a new pb, with 71.25, and he was followed by Jo-Anne Gready in 72.21 and Pete Dengel 72.29.

Stuart Robertson posted an improvement of over two minutes, clocking a good 74.23, and then came James Welsh with 74.42, Sarah Brewster 76.05, Phil Perry 76.36 and Jane Knight 90.31.

The strong wind was also a feature across the wide open spaces of the Thruxton 10k around the motor race circuit, but undeterred Shaun Brown took a well-earned win in 35min 34sec after leaving Lordshill’s Jeremy Watts more than a minute behind.

Track specialist Richard Holt recorded 46.17 and Anita Holt 64.37.

In the Fleet 10k John Ruskin was timed at 47.23 to win his age group.