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Photo Meyrem Hussein

By Ian Shacklock
May 26 2008

Third Delivery of the Petition to the Council (Tues 13th May) A batch of signatures was delivered to the new Mayor of Islington at the Annual Council Meeting on 13th May. This was witnessed by every councillor in front of an extended audience, including Bob Carr, the Islington police borough commander, Emily Thornberry MP, officials of the Islington Boat Club and many others.  

This brings the total number of collected signatures to around 3,000, while an unspecified number remain uncollected or in transit. In fact, we have now reached the point where further numbers no longer matter - this issue is now on the lips of a significant proportion of the walking, talking population of Highbury and Islington.

Arsenal's Current Stance

The sports centre issue was raised at the Arsenal Supporter's Trust meeting on Monday 12th May. Ken Friar explained to the audience that Arsenal had already entertained a one-off payment of £1.8M to the Council and that Arsenal had been instrumental in obtaining a further £0.6M from Barclays.

So clearly there is no point in discussing set-up costs with Arsenal until the existing money has been accounted for. However, we should make the positive assumption that once the financial issues have been resolved, the footballing and marketing employees of Arsenal would relish the concept of a sports centre, and we would want them to hit the ground running once the funds have been realised.

What is happening with the £2.4M?

Various rumours have been published about what is happening with the money supplied by Arsenal and Barclays. Most people suspect that it will be put towards the refurbishment costs of the Sobell Centre. Whilst the Sobell Centre is geographically close to the Emirates Stadium, the two sites are not within each other's lines of sight and they are separated by a racetrack. An enhancement to an existing facility is no substitute for the provision of a new sports centre, so the community will lose out in real terms.

If all of this money is spent on the refurbishment of existing premises then Arsenal will miss an opportunity to market their brand. Nobody will ever associate the name of Arsenal with a new ventilation shaft or a few RSJs behind the scenes and it will soon be forgotten where the funds came from. The £1.8M will be perceived as a clean-break settlement between Arsenal and the community, when the community simply wanted continuity.

There must surely be other ways of raising the funds for the Sobell Centre.

Letter from the Council to the Petition Signatories

A large number of people have received a standard letter from the Council. This letter is less than charming and it is probably designed to make people regret signing the petition. In reality it has angered more residents than it has silenced. Jeremy Corbyn MP has taken the lead by responding to the author of that letter and has issued a press statement explaining his objections.

Do we really need a Sports Centre?

If the population of Islington was decreasing and if tower blocks were being demolished to make way for open spaces and if all teenagers were gainfully occupied then perhaps an indoor football facility would be redundant. But that's not the case, because Islington's population could increase by 20% in the next ten years or so.

The professional players at Arsenal might not require this facility, since they have use of London Colney instead, but a local facility will be a great enabler for the Arsenal Community coaches. It would also be an ideal location for children's birthday parties. Nothing over the top is required; just an indoor football pitch with a large Arsenal crest in the background where children can have their photographs taken. Nobody can put a price on this sort of thing.

What happens next?

We wait to find out what is being done with the £2.4M and how much of that will be available for the sports centre at Queensland Road. Meanwhile we continue to attract supporters to back this campaign and, ultimately, some third party sponsors to help this reasonable aim to become a reality.

Ian Shacklock   25-May-2008        

Photo Meyrem Hussein of Islington Gazette                              

BULLETIN NO 1 here                                                                                            

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Arsenal Times (IP Logged)
26/05/2008 09:48

HappyGooner (IP Logged)
17/07/2008 23:15

1. There is no indoor footballing facility within Islington that could house the 48 children per session, that the JVC did.

2. How can you quote Clissold park, Finsbury park, Whittington park?

Clissold & finsbury are parks!!!! Weather dependant if sessions take place or not(GRASS), and whittington park now has an astro that is HIRED out.

3. The JVC centre was the only pitch I knew put on a pedestal in the terms of it being 'AT' Arsenal. How great was that for the children...Ive just played football at Arsenal. Be it Children that live local or children travelling from abroad. Coaches can go into schools but there is a huge difference.

4. The centre did not only cover football it was used for tennis,hockey and indoor bowls (Pensioners).

5. As for the money side, why cant the centre be self sufficient? the pitch could be hired out from 6-10pm for paying adults (as per jvc centre) 7 days a week.

6. What we are all forgetting and nobody seems to have raised the point is: Arsenal promised with literature (not verbal) a replacement sports centre. (locals were satisfied with Arsenals offer). As soon as Planning permission was granted, the club pulled on its promise, giving local residents no voice? and to top that Islington council have allowed this to happen.

7. Liquidd think about the bigger picture and who this affects, you only talk about children? you haven't mentioned the pensioner bowlers that used the centre twice a week, or the Visually impaired groups, or the Deaf groups, or homeless groups or over 35s league there on a sunday night, hopefully my point is made.

Optimistic Gunner (IP Logged)
18/07/2008 00:29
Agreed HG.

Padre Pio (IP Logged)
18/07/2008 09:08
Arsnal will soon make a 100 million profit on the sale of flats. Some of those flats are built on the ruins of the O2 centre.

A small percentage of that money would provide some kind of facility and win the club a lot of good will.

Optimistic Gunner (IP Logged)
18/07/2008 15:28
Exactly Padre.

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