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

Molly jumps to national championship title

Salisbury has a new national age group champion.

She is 14 year-old Molly Hole, the city’s athletics and running club’s rising star, who in the England Athletics finals at Bedford cleared a height of 1.65m (5ft 5ins approx) to win the event by 4cms and to take this year’s gold medal title that crowns her season.

Molly Hole in action

Molly achieved UK number one status in her age category some months ago and this result further strengthens her reputation in athletics at national level.

At the same venue, Ottilie Knight took a great silver in the under 17’s javelin, hitting a personal best distance of 41.8m (137ft approx) .

Ruth Thom was also in winning mode, her success coming in the sun-baked East Farm half marathon over the country near Blandford Forum. With a run of 1hour 49min 47sec she was more than ten minutes clear of her nearest challenger.

Other Salisbury finishers were Peter Manning in 2.16.33, Elly Mills 3.19.58, Jeanette Hardiman and Kathryn Dreyer 3.25.45 and Marie Manning 4.21.35.

In the sweltering marathon event, James Mills took a good third place with 3hours 59min 18sec, with equally strong runs from Liz Roberts  4.44.17 and Jef Hutchby 4.48.51.


Double delight for Salisbury track athletes

Fielding a tiny team of just three men and five women, City of Salisbury contested the final fixture of the Southern Athletics League at Par near St Austell in Cornwall with such gusto they even saw off a much larger squad from their fierce rivals Swindon.

Club treasurer Alan Munro, normally confined to a club coaching role, produced extraordinary results by running the 100, 200 and 400m sprints as well as scoring vital further points in both the pole vault and high jump.

Andy Holme and Andrew Daniell joined the fray with Munro to cover almost every men’s event between them, winning one after another.

With Catherine Goddard and Laura Simpson dominating the throws and Tasha Mundell, Emma Clarke and Alex Mundell excelling on the track and the jumping events, team spirit prevailed.

Next day in the South West championships at Exeter, success continued.

Emma Clarke took gold in the steeplechase and bronze in the 800m, Alex Mundell took gold in the 800m and silver in the 400m, and Molly Hole took gold in the under 15’s shot put.

A silver medal went to Tash Mundell in the under 17’s steeplechase and bronze went to both Skye Allen in the under 17’s 100m and Georgia Clarke in the under 15’s shot put.

For the men, Andy Holme was gold medallist in the steeplechase, Greg Herring took gold in the under 15’s 800m, with silvers going to Josh Hole in both the under 17’s shot and 400m, and silver to Henry Dix in the under 17’s steeplechase.

On the road, Nick Hudson returned to competition after a four month enforced absence due to injury and at the Trowbridge 10k was pleased to run a solid 48min 59sec.

At Salisbury parkrun, star turn of the day among a field of 440 was the club’s Joanne Bailey who was fastest female with an outstanding pb run of 20min 53sec, scoring an age group rating of over 86 per cent.

Lee Syrett was quickest overall in a time of 18.01, Christopher Melville taking second with 18.02.


Salisbury quad kid athletes set mark for the future


City of Salisbury’s up and coming quad kids’ multi event athletes set themselves the target of winning the Wessex Young Athletes League title at Swindon and after a string of good performances on the day they achieved exactly that.

The set the tone for the other age groups at the fixture too, the club making sure of their league placings by taking second place at the weekend match to a strong Camberley squad.

Among the day’s many highlights, Luke Reeve broke the club’s 25 year old under-13s’ javelin record with a throw of 32.69m and Bea Wood improving her own Wessex League record in the under 15s’ 1500m with a great time of 4m 33.9s.

Molly Hole continued her fine season in the high jump with a clearance of 1.63m, with Martha Royle and Gabrielle Kirkham also showing great form in their events.

But the real stars of the day were the amazing boys quad kids team (pictured) brilliantly managed by Andy Holme, with Will Barnard topping the team’s standings by also taking the individual title in the six team contest.

The local group have shown well throughout the season, helped by a superb team spirit which augurs well for Salisbury’s track and field future.