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Uni decision will leave Stafford sports clubs homeless

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: February 06, 2014

By Robin Scott

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THE CLOSURE of Stafford's university campus will leave a host of local sports teams homeless - including a group that provides facilities for people with learning difficulties.

Stafford Special Olympics, Stafford ladies and men's hockey clubs and Stafford Jets cheerleading squad are among the organisations that will be forced to find a new location for their activities when Staffordshire University closes the Beaconside campus in 2016.

Clive Gibson - who founded Stafford Special Olympics in 2003, providing sporting activities for people with learning disabilities – said the news was "very worrying".

"It's going to be very difficult," he said. "It's an environment in which our athletes feel safe."

Mr Gibson said around 34 athletes, aged six to 40, were currently using the facility. "When it goes I don't know what we are going to do."

Berni Bendall, secretary of Stafford Ladies Hockey Club, said the decision to close the Stafford campus and with it the sports facilities had come as a shock.

"We are very, very concerned," she said. "We train there on a Wednesday for two hours and play matches there all day Saturday."

She said the club is currently fielding five teams and one youth development team, all of which would be homeless if the facility were to close.

"We don't have anywhere else to go," she said.

Eleanor Carroll, 25, head coach at Stafford Jets, said she'd been teaching classes at the facility since 2010.

"It's been such a good location for us," she said. "It's a real shame. Parents are really disappointed."

A spokesman for Staffordshire University said the sports centre would stay open until the campus was vacated.

"The future of the sports centre and astroturf pitch will form part of the next stage of work on the estates strategy," she said. "Nothing has been determined at this stage although we will also be exploring options with interested parties to determine whether its operation can be continued in the longer term.

"However, following the transfer of students to our Stoke campus, it is unlikely to remain open in its current form."

Stafford councillor Rowan Draper said: "We have a stake in the Beaconside all-weather pitch – how are we going to make sure we keep that safe, and by the university leaving Stafford, make sure we don't lose it?"

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