Sports clubs need an extra �50,000 to save Finsbury Park track

�Cash-strapped sports clubs have been told they need to find an extra �50,000 a year if they want to keep their valued running track and sports pitch open.

The four clubs using the track in the heart of Finsbury Park – a facility that neighbouring Haringey Council is refusing to subsidise from next year – now face getting rid of all staff or starting to hire out the clubhouse to stay afloat.

The threat to their future could not have come at a worse time, they say, as London limbers up for the 2012 Olympic Games.


Jerry Odlin, chairman of the London Heathside running club – one of the clubs based there and the 11th largest in the country with more than 470 members – said: “The funding will stop by April 2012 so in the very year of the Olympics we could be shut.

“A lot of the people who come here are not exactly the most well-off people so it’s a real kick in the teeth.”

The groups – London Heathside, the London Blitz American football team, Dynamic Sports Academy for athletes and the government-funded youth group Access To Sports – are carrying out a feasibility study into the best options. Replacing all staff with volunteers could save �35,000 a year, said Mr Odlin.

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He admitted putting the clubhouse up for hire “could be a real possibility”, even though it means further commercialising the park.

To make matters worse, London Heathside also needs to urgently find an extra �28,000 to fix broken floodlights – a critical problem as they only use the track after 7pm.

The council has agreed to foot the bill if all four clubs commit to a 15 to 25-year lease for the site – something they are currently unable to do.

Blaming central government funding cuts, a spokeswoman for Haringey Council, which manages the park, said: “We are not in a position to invest any more in this site.

“We have now advertised the lease opportunity and are working with prospective bidders, including London Heathside, to develop their proposals, which the council will then assess to determine the best value option.”