Sandwell Commonwealth Games Legacy football pitches closing on Monday 'so houses can be built'

The summer of sports for hundreds of Black Country parents and children has been cancelled after being told their beloved football pitches will close on Sunday.

Red card for football, green light for housing? Drone picture by Tim Thursfield
Red card for football, green light for housing? Drone picture by Tim Thursfield

Pulse Wednesbury, a Commonwealth Games Legacy project, shocked staff, parents and children by announcing its imminent closure on Facebook on Wednesday.

With a full summer football programme just underway Pulse explained it was closing after its landlord, Phoenix Collegiate School, wanted "to build houses on the land".

The shock decision left parents scrambling to find alternative childcare arrangements and more than 50 football teams homeless ahead of the new season.

Staff at Centre Sport Sport, which has run popular football sessions at Pulse for more than ten years, are now desperately looking for a new venue to hold its popular summer programme.

Director Manny Abbeyquaye told the Express and Star: "We are stunned and in shock. How can they do this to all these children during the Commonwealth Games when everyone is supposed to be inspired by sport.

"To give everyone just four days notice is just unforgivable, and that Pulse is supposed to be a Commonwealth Games Legacy Project makes it even more unbelievable."

He added: "The people of Friar Park will not forget this, for Phoenix Collegiate to build on such a loved piece of land is bad enough but to demand immediate closure is mystifying. They will not be building immediately and the cost for security for the site will be huge."

Phoenix Collegiate School applied for planning permission last year to build 84 houses, however, according to Sandwell Council's website no decision has been made which makes the demand for the land to be vacated by Pulse by Monday even more annoying to local residents and sports fans.

Centre Spot project manager Michael McDonald, who helps children in Friar Park channel their energy into sport instead of negative pursuits, said: "I am so angry about the people who use and love this centre and the pitches were not warned about the closure. To find out on social media there is only a few days left is bad."

Friar Park Councillor and Sandwell Council cabinet member for children and education Simon Hackett is furious with Pulse Wednesbury's shock closure.

He said: "I found out Pulse was closing on social media like everyone else and frankly I am disgusted.

"To give almost no notice is unforgivable, parents were relying on the football camps for childcare throughout the summer and so many children were looking forward to a summer of sport because of the Commonwealth Games."

"I do not understand why it has been closed without any consultation with the local community, if the land is to be developed I cannot see it happening immediately so why not let everyone keep using the pitches."

He added: "I want an investigation into how this happened and what can be done to keep it open over the summer. Phoenix Collegiate and Pulse have treated our community with contempt, they need to get together and sort something out."

Pulse Wednesbury's Facebook sparked a wave of revulsion and upset with over 300 people including parents, staff and politicians venting their fury.

The Facebook post said: "Pulse Soccer have been informed that we must stop operations at Wednesbury Soccer Centre as the facilities will be turned into housing development.

"We regret to inform you that our last day of operations will be July 31 and will close on August 1. We appreciate that this is short notice but it is outside the control of Pulse Soccer and we must comply with the request from the School.

"We wish to thank you for your membership at the Gym and hope you find suitable alternative facilities. We sincerely apologise for the disappointment and inconvenience this may cause to those within the Wednesbury Pulse community."

Bustleholme Football Club fields 38 teams, mostly children, at Wednesbury Soccer Centre and its managers are distraught at the prospect of years of hard work ending on Sunday.

Victoria Lang-Richardson, from the club, said: "It's very disappointing. Another knock to football at a time where so many people need this for mental health.

"Bad decision. 38 teams at Bustleholme and lots of other clubs now without a pitch to play on in the winter. When you see facilities in the middle/ upper class realms of the county you see why we’re set up to fail. It is disgraceful."

Fellow Bustleholme FC parent Michelle Gannon "A family football club like ours that try to make everything affordable for kids to play football to keep them off streets and enjoy the beautiful game only for it to be taken away at a moment's notice.

"What hope do we have for our kids and their futures when all the facilities they have and green are being replaced with houses and development?"

Pulse, which has fitness and sports centres across the country, are believed to have informed staff they would be made redundant just before the post on Facebook on Wednesday.

Staff member Ryan Somers said: "Mega gutted, worked there for 10 years, and its been a big part of my life. I met some great people through working and playing football there.

"Feel sorry for the staff, members and the local community for losing such a great centre. Will be missed massively."

Phoenix Collegiate has been approached for a comment.

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