Birchfield Harriers Athletics Club shocked by 'bombshell' over Alexander Stadium closure

A sports club in the West Midlands have been stunned after a "bombshell" announcement that its base will be closed until after the Commonwealth Games.

Athletes at the 2018 European Champions Club Cup. Photo: Birchfield Harriers.
Athletes at the 2018 European Champions Club Cup. Photo: Birchfield Harriers.

Birmingham's Alexander Stadium, the home to Birchfield Harriers Athletics Club, will be closed for training from now until after the 2022 event.

Catherine Muth, a trainer at the club, believes it will be difficult to keep the club running in the lead-up to the Games – with the stadium shut to allow works to be completed.

The club had been under the impression that they would be able to continue using the warm-up track throughout works on the stadium, with several of their athletes hoping to compete at the Games.

However the council says that no guarantees were made, and has cited the impact of Covid-19 as one of the main reasons that the stadium will not be available until after 2022.

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The change means that hundreds of athletes are now having to find somewhere else to train, with talks continuing between the club and the council around alternative sites.

Ms Muth said: "I think being realistic we always thought there might be a slight time period where we didn’t have a training track, but we thought that would be weeks, we certainly didn’t anticipate that that would be years

"Now all of a sudden, we’ve got athletes from all the home nations who are trying to train to get on their teams. We’ve also got a big group of senior athletes who were hoping to compete at their home Games, who have been left with no training facilities for the whole of the run-up to the event.

Precarious

"As a club we also hoped that we would get a huge amount of interest in the run-up, but that isn’t going be possible now because we’ve got no base. Just trying to keep the club together for the next few years is going to be incredibly difficult, plus obviously the loss of membership means a loss of income for us. So it has placed us in a very very precarious position really.

“We are very disappointed that it was given to us as a fait accompli without any discussion. It was a bit of a bombshell. The first the trustees heard about it was on June 1."

In a statement, Birmingham City Council said: “The initial intention was for the track and related facilities to remain available for use during the early phases of construction work to deliver the revamped stadium, with a new warm up track also delivered early in the programme.

"However, the impact of Covid-19 on construction schedules and the Government’s continued guidance on social distancing and the use of sporting facilities, now means that keeping the track open is no longer possible.

"Every effort is being made to work with existing users of the track, in particular Birchfield Harriers, to identify alternative provision and the city council will do everything feasibly possible to aid those that this affects."

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