South Lanarkshire Council rejects transfer sale of Jock Stein Center and £150,000 SFA fund

Councilors this week rejected Blantyre Soccer Academy’s appeal bid to takeover the Jock Stein Center in Hamilton.

The decision was made at a meeting of the Community Asset Transfer Panel on Wednesday afternoon, and saw politicians knock back the idea of ​​the Academy purchasing the popular sports facility for community ownership for a second time.

The move has been welcomed by those who currently use the facility, and who backed a petition to stop the sale, with many locals and Lanarkshire football teams believing the Academy would “prioritise their own teams” when it came to let bookings.

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However, politicians who backed the asset transfer, believing the BSA would only enhance and develop the facility, were left bewildered that the council also knocked back a partnership bid worth £150,000 from the Scottish Football Association to improve the Jock Stein “for the good of the community” earlier this month.

Backed by the Academy, the partnership between the two bodies was successful, and the amount granted by the SFA on March 7 was to be formally accepted by March 11.

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However, the bid was declined, with BSA learning about the council’s failure to accept the cash in a letter a few days later. The move was branded “ridiculous” by a BSA spokesperson this week and “puts the nail in the coffin” on the facility.

Now, Councilor Mo Razzaq is seeking answers as to why the money, which would be used to refurbish the “outdated” and “in need of repair” sports hub and pitches, was declined.

Labor councillor Mo Razzaq is astounded by the cash knockback

He said: “I want to know who made the decision to knock back the grant. Was it an officer’s decision? If so what officer and why did they not consult with the partner (BSA)? If it was a political decision who made it ?

“I find it incredible that in South Lanarkshire we have this run-down, out-dated, in need of repair community facility, with no prospect of investment by the local authority, who have the support of a grassroots community organization and have thrown saving it into the long grass.”

Council chiefs this week said they required £240,000 to upgrade the facility, meaning the £150,000 SFA fund fell short.

David Booth, executive director of community and enterprise resources, said: “The council made a bid to the SFA for £240,000 to upgrade the surface at Jock Stein Centre. As is standard practice we ask clubs, as valued users of our facilities, to support our applications, and Blantyre Soccer Academy agreed to do so in this case.

“An offer of award of £150,000 towards the Jock Stein Center pitch replacement was made to the council from the SFA on March 7.

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“This offer was significantly lower than the £240,000 required to undertake the work and came with a variety of conditions that the council would not be able to fulfill, given the Community Asset Transfer review that is underway. . As a result, the bid was ultimately unsuccessful.

The council say £240,000 is needed to upgrade the Jock Stein pitches and center

“We have worked closely with the SFA on this bid, and they fully understand our position and accept our course of action. They have also advised that further significant funding is likely to be announced for next year. With that in mind, we hope the Jock Stein project will again get the chance to secure the funding needed to undertake the work.”

Meanwhile, those who set up a petition to stop BSA taking sole control of the facility were delighted that the asset transfer appeal was rejected this week.

Dean Barghati, who runs Hamilton Dynamo’s Football Club, which caters for approximately 35 children who regularly use the Jock Stein, told Lanarkshire Live: “I am glad the council have upheld the decision made previously.

“Now as a community we can gather together with local groups and the public of Hillhouse and Burnbank and ask the council to put forward the proper funding the Jock Stein facility has been denied for many years.

“We have lost many facilities including Earnock High School which had football pitches and an athletics track. Hopefully the council will now listen to the community and help as best they can for our area.”

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Blantyre Soccer Academy have confirmed they will now appeal to the Scottish Parliament about the decision.

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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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