Search for new home suffers another setback

Hockey Club’s bid to move to Meridian School vetoed by league officials

ROYSTON Hockey Club’s search for a new home has taken a major blow with news that they will not be allowed to play at Meridian School after they are forced to leave the soon-to-be closed Bassingbourn Barracks.

The club will be forced to vacate their current home at Bassingbourn when it closes in August 2012 – although they have been told they could remain until March 2013 – as part of a redevelopment of the army training facility. It was hoped Royston HC would be able to use the artificial surface at Meridian School as their home following the closure, however league officials vetoed this plan during a meeting on January 20, on the grounds that the Third-Generation playing surface does not meet set requirements.

The new site at Bassingbourn Barracks will form part of a new East of England Multi-Role Brigade, with a new regiment occupying the barracks after completion of the works. It is thought the site will be closed for up to three years, but The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has stated it will seek to accommodate existing sporting activities, where possible, during any intervening period between occupiers of the site. However they stipulated this may not be feasible due to financial and security constraints, and the hockey club say it is increasingly likely they will be forced to leave their base in the autumn without anywhere to go.

The MOD has also announced it will repair the floodlights at the pitches next week at a cost of �10,000 – despite the planned redevelopment and subsequent exodus of the barracks’ sporting residents in six months time.

The hockey club, which has over 250 adult and youth members, is just one of a number of sport organisations – including rugby, fishing and golf – which use the site’s facilities throughout the year and it is estimated the closure will affect up to 1,000 sportspeople.

The adult teams – including the Men’s Firsts and Ladies’ Firsts, who are both vying for promotion this season – have been allowed to play matches at Meridian recently but their respective promotion bids could count for nothing should the club be without a home next season.

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Royston Hockey Club president, Colin Smith, has told the Royston Crow they plan to appeal to the International Hockey Federation – the sport’s largest governing body – in an attempt to overrule the league’s decision to prohibit them playing long-term at Meridian School and leave them without a base.

However, Smith says the club are looking at various other contingency options in a bid to find a home for the club – including the possibility of purchasing the pitch structure and lighting equipment at the barracks from the MOD, and relocating to their original home when they founded in 1958 at Therfield Heath should they receive the necessary permission. This option would be considerably cheaper than the estimated �400,000 cost of building brand-new facilities at a new venue in the future.

“As a club, we are in a really good place at the moment,” Smith told the Royston Crow. “We have a lot of members, and we do a lot of our own fundraising. Our adult teams are doing really well and battling for promotion, so it’s frustrating that unless something is done we won’t be able to play next season.”