Blantyre Soccer Academy appeal decision over Jock Stein asset transfer knock back


Blantyre Soccer Academy have appealed a decision not to sell the Jock Stein Sports Center facility to them.

The Academy controversially applied to purchase the Hamilton-based center in an asset transfer bid from South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) last year.

The move caused huge outcry within the Hamilton community and indeed with football teams across the county who use the facility regularly.

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Concerns surfaced about BSA taking over ownership of the centre, with teams saying the academy would “prioritise their own teams” when it comes to bookings, hampering the lets of others.

So outraged were people, that a petition to ‘Save the Jock Stein pitches’ set up garnered over 2,800 signatures in just a few days.

Now, BSA have lodged an appeal with the local authority on the basis they will develop and improve the sporting facility, saying they will ensure it “remains open and accessible to the whole community.”

Academy chairman Jimmy Whelan told Lanarkshire Live: “The application was submitted due to the uncertainty of the survival of the facility under South Lanarkshire Council Leisure and Culture (SLLC).

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BSA use the facility to host the Reamonn Gormley Memorial Soccer Festival

“And yes, whilst it is correct that the Academy would naturally have let bookings at Jock Stein, this in turn would free up other lets across the county that we currently use.

“But we give assurances that we would continue to allow parks to be booked by other teams too.

“In fact SLLC have brought out new rules for next season that no team can have more than three hours per week training to bring all teams in line.

“There is also a strategic board within the plans to have two members of the Academy together with representatives of other teams and clubs so all decisions are made with all users in mind.

“Our main aim remains to secure the future of the Jock Stein and to upgrade and improve it for years to come.”

Blantyre Soccer Academy have appealed the Council’s decision to takeover ownership of the Jock Stein

Hamilton Dynamos coach, Dean Barghati, was responsible for setting up the petition against the asset transfer last year.

He told us: “I’m surprised they have appealed the decision to be honest knowing the controversy it has caused.

“For example, we have nearly 3000 signatures on a petition, the communities of Hillhouse and Burnbank are against it, the majority of other football teams in the town do not want this to go ahead, several community groups, councilors and more have all rejected their bid.

“I would be seriously surprised with all this objection if the council go back on their decision and allow this to go ahead.

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“I played at the Jock Stein as a child and my family have used the facility for years – not through a football team – just as kids wanting to kick a ball about.

“It has to remain open for all, that is vital.”

Hamilton West and Earnock’s Liberal Democrat councillor, Mark McGeever

The decision to not sell the facility was supported by Hamilton West and Earnock’s Liberal Democrat councillor, Mark McGeever.

He said this week: “Selling the center off would only let the community down further.

“The council and leisure trust should instead commit to upgrading the Jock Stein, making it a leading public sports facility that works for all the local football clubs and other users.

“I’ve chapped thousands of doors in this community to ask people their views. It’s clear residents overwhelmingly want this to remain owned and operated by the council’s leisure trust.”

“It’s no disrespect to BSA. They do great work and I’ve no doubt their bid is very well-intentioned.

“But asset transfers need the support of those who use a facility and this bid simply doesn’t have their support.”

Jimmy Whelan is urging people to back the proposals and has asked them to email the council with their support on [email protected] before February 16.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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