Squash players strike over Sobell Leisure Centre ‘racquet racket’

Members of the Britannia Squash Club outside the the Sobell Leisure Centre. From left Richard Noble,

Members of the Britannia Squash Club outside the the Sobell Leisure Centre. From left Richard Noble, Tim Denis, Tony Lewis, Carlos Lopez Barillas and Adam O'Brien. (Picture: Polly Hancock) - Credit: Archant

Dozens of squash players went on strike for a month after frustrations with a leisure centre boiled over.

Members of the Sobell Squash Club downed their racquets over measures brought in at Sobell Leisure Centre by GLL, which runs the council-owned facility in Hornsey Road under the name Better.

At the end of May, timer-activated lights were brought in on courts to save energy. But regular players, who are now unable to warm up on empty courts, felt the move was a money-motivated ploy by Better and are angry they weren’t consulted.

It only added to their existing frustration over “racquets memberships”, which allow members to play for free once a day at Better centres across the UK – except the ones in Islington.

Carlos Lopez-Barillas plays in the league and is chairman of Hackney’s Britannia Squash Club, which also plays at the Sobell. He and Sobell Squash Club bosses met Better on June 30 to bring an end to the walkout.

He told the Gazette: “The strike was a way to communicate there were a lot of people unhappy with the measures, particularly because they were introduced without any consultation whatsoever.

“I don’t like that the racquet membership is not available in Islington.

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“It is very clearly a measure putting profit above benefit to the residents – and that is what the facilities are there for, to serve the community.”

Matt Perren, partnership manager for GLL in Islington, said the timers were industry standard and worked well.

He added the small number of courts and players would not have supported the racquets membership when Better took over in 2014, when there was also a problem with people using the courts without paying. He also invited further “feedback”.

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