EMERALDS Boxing club in Chippenham is in a fight for survival. The gym is trying to weather the impact of the coronavirus, like all clubs across the country, and on top of that they now face losing their premises as their landlord plans to increase their rent to an unaffordable amount.
Emeralds has reopened, adapting to follow all the England Boxing guidelines for training. But they had plans for three club shows that of course had to be called off, resulting in a crippling loss of income from those events. But losing the gym itself is even more severe. Head coach Liam Lansbury [pictured] explains that the rent rise would be “1500% dearer so it’s completely out of our reach”.
“We’re not in a rich part of the world anyway. In the West Country people think there’s loads of money round here but there’s not and companies need to be tight with their own money. Especially in the current climate, everybody’s panicking. But the council have buildings all over the place empty but they just seem to not want to get involved for some reason. I do keep it as cheap as I can [to use the gym]. Boxing tries to be cheap to get the kids in the gym because a lot of parents can’t afford to pay these astronomical prices,” he said. “We’re trying to build something where we can work with the community as a community hub with any kids that are going down the wrong path and stuff like that. I work quite closely with some of the police and I’ve worked quite closely with some of the schools with some of the kids that are going down the wrong route behaviour-wise. We’ve had a few kids that have been expelled from mainstream school, we’ve got them back into the mainstream school. It amazes me that the council is not all over it.”
The club, relatively new, is successful. “The local council don’t seem that interested, which amazes me because we’ve only been open since July 2012, we’ve had seven national champions, we’ve had three England representatives, we’ve had a Welsh representative,” Lathbury said.
Its work in the community is important and if this club were to vanish, nothing would replace it. “We live in a part of the country, there’s a lot of kids here and in the town they’ve took everything away. They’ve took down the community centre, the youth clubs have gone, there’s nothing here. We’re so situated on a brilliant position on the M4 corridor, unfortunately the drug running and the county lines stuff is really, really hot round here. And if there’s even less for them to do, it’s going to be more likely that kids go down that road unfortunately and it’s something that we’re trying to get involved with heavily to stop,” he explained. “We’ve had all sorts of real bad stories from kids that have got stuff going on at home and all that. It’s a place of safety, a sanctuary, three times a week to get away from problems they got elsewhere.”
“We’ve changed their outlook and the person they are massively just by being around all those young confident kids,” he continued. “I’ve always said a boxing gym puts an old head on young shoulders.”
Emeralds Boxing is looking for help, whether its from local businesses or people in the boxing world who can just highlight their plight. “We’re trying to get established somewhere else,” Lathbury said. “We’re really struggling to find some help so we’re trying everything in our arsenal to get it everywhere we can so people will pick it up. We need the right person to read it or see it and then hopefully we’ll get some help.
“I’m a boxing man myself, so it’s a never give up situation. I will not let this thing shut. Whatever I’ve got to do, I will do. We can’t give up. It’s been so much blood sweat and tears to get where we are. I can’t walk away from it.”
For anyone who can help or support, you can email Liam Lathbury at firstname.lastname@example.org and find their Justgiving fundraising page here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/liam-lathbury-EB.
ENGLAND Boxing are backing a campaign to save the leisure sector. The government is being called on to find relief funding, of around £800 million, to support the reopening and recovery of the public leisure sector after the disastrous impact of the Covid 19 pandemic.
The campaign is being run by Community Leisure UK, ukactive and CIMSPA and backed by a host of other partners and national governing bodies. Without it it’s feared that 1,300 venues could be lost, along with tens of thousands of jobs. The campaign points out too that losing leisure facilities is at odds with the government’s plan to reduce obesity and improve the nation’s health through exercise in the face of a possible second wave of Covid 19.
Mark Tweedie, chief executive of Community Leisure UK, said, “Communities without leisure centres are unimaginable, so we are reaching out to everyone to unite behind our #saveleisure campaign for specific fixed term Government financial support to save our leisure centres and community based services.
“Public leisure centres feature at the heart of communities – they play an essential part in supporting health and wellbeing and help to reduce escalating costs to the NHS and social services.”
Super-heavyweight national champion Delicious Orie [above left] said, “When I walked into a gym, I was given the possibility to learn and I was given the opportunity to learn and over the years I was able to capitalise on these facilities and really use them to my advantage.
“Leisure centres and facilities played and still play a massive part in my life… Really in a way it changed my life. They’re also massive to the youth and the younger generation.
“Leisure facilities, whatever it is, in my case boxing, is a great tool for the community.”