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Sobell Leisure Centre gives five-a-side football league the boot to make way for trampoline park

PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:33 18 August 2017

Some of the five-a-side footballers who have been displaced from the Sobell leisure centre in Holloway. Picture; Dieter Perry

Some of the five-a-side footballers who have been displaced from the Sobell leisure centre in Holloway. Picture; Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

Footballers are kicking off over plans to move their five-a-side league out of a leisure centre – to make room for a trampoline park.

Sobell five-a-side players Tamsin Oglesby, Paul Millington, Mark Merchant, John Barber and Peter Murray. Picture: Dieter PerrySobell five-a-side players Tamsin Oglesby, Paul Millington, Mark Merchant, John Barber and Peter Murray. Picture: Dieter Perry

Hundreds of players at the Sobell centre in Holloway have been told to move to hard indoor pitches at The Bridge School or simply play outside. They say neither is an option as the centre hosts players of all ages and abilities, some of whom are at risk of injury if they slip or fall on hard or wet surfaces.

All indoor five-a-side football will stop at the Sobell when half the sports hall is converted into a 1,600 square metre trampoline park. Badminton, basketball and volleyball will continue in the remaining space.

The centre is run on Islington Council’s behalf by Better/GLL, a non-profit organisation that manages leisure facilities across London.

“The centre is part of a charity organisation and yet they’re playing one sport off against another,” said Islington player Tamsin Oglesby, 52.

“Five-a-side is the only exercise many of the players do during the week. We are committed football players who the centre should serve.”

The transfer means substituting the last indoor five-a-side cushioned surface at the Sobell for a hard non-slip floor.

“The Bridge is an excellent venue for badminton and basketball, but not great for football,” said John Barber, 55.

"Some of us have been playing at the Sobell for more than 20 years. In all likelihood the move will result in many of us not playing any more. The change of surface will be very hard on the joints and it’s dangerous"

John Barber

“The Sobell centre has a sprung timber floor which is far easier on the knees and, in particular, far more forgiving when players fall.”

Players fear the switch will sound the final whistle for many local footballers.

“Some of us have been playing at the Sobell for more than 20 years,” said Paul Millington, 56. “In all likelihood the move will result in many of us not playing any more.

“The change of surface will be very hard on the joints and it’s dangerous.”

The move is a result of £3million of “improvement” works being carried out at the centre – which GLL claims will encourage more people to use the centre.

A spokesman told the Gazette: “We are anticipating there will be more people using the Sobell Centre as a result of these improvements.

“We operate trampoline parks at facilities elsewhere in the country and we know they bring more people into our facilities. This will become quite a destination for Islington.”

The trampoline park will be the first of its kind in inner London, and is predicted to double the number of visitors to the centre, according to Better/GLL.

But a number of footballers expressed frustration at the management’s failure to consult them more fully. The last indoor football game is expected to take place on April 20, with works scheduled to begin six days later.

“They’ve been planning the trampoline park for two years,” said Tamsin. “Had they consulted people earlier in the process we might have been able to reach a compromise.”

Letters e-mailed to players on March 16, by centre manager Clive-Anthony Douglas, state: “The first consultation meeting will take place today in my office either before or after your session [this] evening.”

But subsequent letters, received less than an hour later, say merely the changes “are due to take place during mid-April” and make no reference to a consultation.

As part of the development work a new dojo and cycle studio will be created and the café and reception areas have been renovated.

An Islington Council spokesman said: “We hope the trampoline park captures the imagination of younger residents. It’s expected to attract double the number of visitors, from a wider variety of backgrounds. We understand the vast majority of bookings will remain at the Sobell Centre and, where necessary, GLL is working to accommodate other service users at nearby facilities. We’ll check to ensure this continues to be the case.”

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