Club Response Statement 17/12/2017

Due to the disappointment over the school’s approach to the mediation process and their subsequent biased statement, I feel it is important to issue much more detail in our response than is customary as I feel you deserve to know the full extent of our current position.

The mediation process was triggered, as I am sure you will all recall, by the school’s take it or leave it demand on the contract. They issued a new document, after we had come to an agreement, which we couldn’t possibly sign. We were told we would have to sign it or pay the equivalent of £24,000 per year for the use of the track. Neither option was possible and so we were locked out.

We approached the mediation process in good faith. The term is a little over‐used, but it is important in this case. We knew there were difficulties between the two parties and we had already, before mediation, put forward a possible solution that should have worked for everyone. After three elapsed weeks, and over 15 hours of legal wrangling, we are exactly where we were before it started. The school has not changed its stance in the slightest. The details of the proposal, because it is not subject to the confidentiality of the mediation process because it was already in circulation beforehand, will be published on our Save Cosarc Website.

The proposal didn’t change the basic facts however. The school would receive a new track without any financial contribution, they would contribute nothing to its upkeep and they would contribute nothing to its replacement at the end of its life. All that expenditure fell to the club. This has been the same throughout and has been accepted by the club throughout.

To take the school’s points in turn:
With respect to the clubhouse, the club built it with its own money. We own it. This is the subject of legal debate but we obviously believe we are right. However, there are some things in the school letter that are frankly untrue. The original agreement was that the school and other schools could use the clubhouse – with the permission of the club. This is important. The club hasn’t reneged on that agreement. We have allowed schools and other clubs to use our club house many times. I’m not aware that we have ever refused anyone.

No other community users are suffering, except that now no‐one has access to the clubhouse and the majority of users have no access to the track. You only have to look on any evening to see how many other community users are making use of the track in the club’s absence. It may well be the case that the community feel that the advertised £50 an hour is too large an increase from the £4 paid in October.
The club has been locked out of the track. The safeguarding issue that is raised by the school is ridiculous. We actually have higher safeguarding responsibilities than the school because our age groups are younger. We also have no access to the track in school hours and never have, nor do we wish to. We did have access to the track outside of school hours on club nights and now we don’t. The track is locked to us. This is because the school issued a new legal agreement that we couldn’t sign and so we are locked out. It is that simple.

It is interesting that the school raises its commitment to sharing the track. The schools’ area sports and the schools’ county championships are often officiated by club members and use the clubhouse by our permission. The county sports is on a weekend, which is in club time, not school time.

There is some truth that the club changed (not withdrew) its business plan. However, this was prompted by a significant change by the school. In a now familiar tone (where the school makes the first move and then complains when there is a reasonable response – see their complaints about us talking to the media when they made the first statement) the school reneged on the original agreement that the club would manage the track outside of school hours. This removed our ability to deliver our original business plan, so it had to change. We submitted numerous versions of this plan, without response form the school to try and keep this moving forward. The school has ignored these. It is churlish to now ask for a final business plan. They have that, they had it before mediation, during and after and have ignored it. We will be publishing it shortly so that they can no longer make false statements.

On another point, the school may well have spent £115,000 over the years, since 1991 perhaps, so 26 years. If you do the calculation, that’s a lot less than they want the club to spend over the next few years. In reality, the school has spent nothing for many years.

During the last few years it has become clear that neither the school nor the council really knew what the money was being spent on or whether the work was carried out. I will leave you to judge whether you think the track has benefited from the expenditure.

With the two points above in mind, and the actions of the school in October, the club has changed its stance. The original proposal from the school was that although the club is paying for everything, the expenditure would be controlled by the school. Also, any income from the track would be generated by the school who managed it throughout. The club does not believe that the school is motivated to bring in more bookings to generate income, nor to negotiate the best value for maintenance. Why should it? It has no stake. It is spending our money and the income generated would support our expenditure. The current over pricing of the track (£50 an hour) is a good example of this. There’s no skin off the school’s nose and the historical management of those contracts don’t fill us with any confidence. We take the expenditure of the club member’s money very seriously.

Although the school is keen to state they allowed use of the publicly funded track by six other schools, they should be reminded that until 9 November, the club’s UKA qualified coaches, coached children from 40 different primary schools and 11 secondary schools.

Finally, a few people have raised the question of why a cash‐strapped school is spending so much money on lawyers, when they already have a proposal that costs them nothing and is managed by an independent trust that they are part of? Some people have a very ready answer to that, which involves disposal of the land. That is conjecture and we have no way of knowing. It is a situation that can only resolve itself in time.

However, we all need to project ourselves forward 10 or 15 years and ask ourselves what we want to look back at. A thriving club, run by volunteers, providing a community of adults and children with a low‐cost, engaging sport open to all. Or some more buildings.

I want to say I did everything I could to protect the club’s survival. How about you?

Lee Ness
Chairman
City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club

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