Athletics club facing eviction from their track and facilities after an on-going debate with trustees
Mansfield Harriers face being evicted from the track they have used for 54 years at the end of this month because of a long-held dispute with the trustees of Berry Hill Park, on which the facilities are located.
The club of around 400 members have used the track since it was first laid in 1958. In 2003 the club operated under an agreement with the trustees to use the facilities in return for maintaining it.
However, in April 2010, the trustees made a demand for £30,000 from the club in hire charges. The Harriers considered this fee unworkable and have been seeking to negotiate ever since.
Matters reached crisis point, however, when the club received a letter on Monday giving notice that they would be evicted from November 1 and that any equipment stored would have to be moved by November 30.
The letter alluded to an alleged verbal assault taking place on October 4 by a member or members of the Harriers against the secretary of the trust, Ray Jackson-Smith, and a manager at Woodhouse Club Football Club, which had been allowed to use the facilities. The Harriers have asked for clarification so the matter can be investigated.
The football club had recently been allowed by the trustees to use the facilities for winter training, meaning the field facilities were out of bounds for athletics.
Ian Shelton, chairman of Woodhouse Colts FC, told AW he was no longer interested in using the facility because of the episode on October 4, even though he had since met amicably with the Harriers.
Mansfield Harriers said in a statement: “The Trustees have consistently refused to meet with club officials and have refused to answer letters, emails and telephone calls.”
The club fears it has lost members as a consequence and has been unable to hold club, league or championship events, resulting in thousands in lost income.
When contacted on Tuesday, Mr Jackson-Smith told AW he did not wish to comment.
England Athletics said it had made extensive efforts, through the club and coach support officer and then the area team leader to support the Harriers and help both parties reach a user agreement, involving at times daily contact with the trustees.
EA area team leader Chris Mallender said: “We share in the club’s disappointment at the impact that the uncertainty over the club’s facilities has had on the good work that they are attempting to do. It is to Mansfield Harriers’ credit that they have continued to work hard at supporting their members and providing the sport in the area through this period including as part of the Nottinghamshire Athletics Network.
“Following this latest development, we will continue to look at how we can best support the club and engage other bodies, such as Sport England, in seeking to resolve this ongoing situation to everyone’s satisfaction.”
A spokeswoman for Mansfield District Council said it was unable to intervene in the dispute as it was a matter between the two, but said the town’s mayor had encouraged discussion between both parties to resolve the matter.
» An online petition has been set up here to help stop the expulsion of Mansfield Harriers.