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There are so many sporting success stories in Gloucester, says MP Richard Graham

All Areas > Sport > General

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 11:40

Richard Graham opening the new AstroTurf at Archdeacon Meadow with the Head & Chair of Governors of King’s School Richard Graham opening the new AstroTurf at Archdeacon Meadow with the Head & Chair of Governors of King’s School

We all know about the advantages of playing sport… it’s good fun, it gets you out and about and it’s good for your health – and that’s just for starters.

Sport is not just for the few, it’s for the many with people of all ages and abilities ready and able to take part.

In Gloucester that is certainly very much the case, so much so that Richard Graham, the MP for Gloucester, wants as many people as possible to know how sport has developed in the city over the past decade or so.

In his E-newsletter, he wrote: “You might be thinking, in the run in to 29th March, that this is an odd time to write about sport.

“But although the media is obsessed with Brexit, and yes being on the Select Committee for Leaving the EU is time consuming, my Gloucester Project list (about 30 things on it at any given time) includes sports, and it’s a good time to reflect on where we as a city have come from and are heading for.

“After all, great cities have great sports teams and excellent facilities for all. How do we square up?

“When I became MP in 2010 Gloucester had a very good Premier League rugby club, but there was a question mark over whether it would stay at Kingsholm.

“Meanwhile our main football stadium had been washed away in the floods, and not much progress had been made on resolving this.

“There were no functioning athletics tracks for competitions – schools had to go to Cheltenham for this – and the only AstroTurf pitch was at the council’s Oxstalls base.

“Our rowing club had some great rowers, but cramped and ancient facilities. Some of our best amateur rugby clubs had real facilities issues, our city playgrounds for the young were tired and far apart and there was very little at all for those with disabilities.

“Almost nine years on things are different. Gloucester Rugby has expanded twice at Kingsholm, introduced a range of community activities that includes the HITZ programme for 14-18 year olds, as well as the Wheelchair Rugby Club in Longlevens and walking rugby at Plock Court.

“They reach thousands through these different community programmes, as well as having playing stars support the amateur clubs.

“On local clubs’ facilities, I was particularly pleased to help Matson RFC, whose under-17s reached the national final in 2013, be awarded the £50,000 they needed from Sport England’s Inspiring Places programme for a new clubhouse roof.

“It was part of the investment in rugby here before the Rugby World Cup 2015, that put Gloucester on the national and international stage. We rose brilliantly to the occasion as host city – and the atmosphere, spirit (and footfall) showed what a difference sport can make to a city in so many ways.

“Rugby has also benefited from great co-operation over our Heritage between Gloucester Rugby, the Gloucestershire Heritage Hub and the Heritage Lottery Fund, winning funds for research and projects that make a real difference both to Kingsholm and the wider city. Few cities have seen such a successful partnership.

“Down the road in Hempsted, Gloucester City Football Club has made big leaps forward, with strong support from the city council, to returning to Meadow Park.

“The crucial next step is a big pitch to the Football Foundation for funds to enable the new (relatively modest) stadium to be built, and a spectacular first fixture back at home on New Year’s Day 2020.

“I am doing all I can to help, including inviting the Sports Minister to come and see why this is so important – and we will need a big push from the entire city to convince the Foundation that being the only city in the country whose city team plays outside its city is not the sort of uniqueness we want. Let’s make this the year when Gloucester City FC comes home.

“Just down the road, thanks to a giant fundraising effort, city council approval and government financial support, partnerships with various schools and Hartpury University (formerly University Centre Hartpury), Gloucester Rowing Club now has a large base on the north side of our great canal (arguably the best rowing water in the country), and Hartpury hosts a programme to develop the next generation of Olympic rowers.

“A mile away is the main focus of our athletics. In 2010-2012, we won the money from Sport England to transform the Blackbridge Athletics Track, and a new Gloucester Athletics Club to run it.

“They have since hosted club, school, city, county and wider competitions and deserve great thanks from us all.

“Most creatively the track now hosts three times a week the Gloucestershire Wheels for All programme, started by Mary-Clare Faulkner and funded by the Leonard Cheshire Foundation.

“This enables people with a wide range of disabilities to enjoy adapted cycles around the track. We even have a potential female Paralympic ‘road running’ champion training here.

“Gloucester Athletics’ clubhouse, though much improved, still looks like a cold war bunker. So a big project to completely revamp this with new facilities for them, neighbouring Crypt School, Gloucester City Football Club and gym users is one of the city’s major sporting ambitions.

“When approval was given for new houses on the former Civil Service sports ground on Estcourt Road, few noticed that the planning agreement included £1.6 million to council for infrastructure including sports, a good chunk of which is earmarked to make the new sports hub at Blackbridge happen. This is going to make a huge difference.

“Coming back to the city’s eastern boundary at Longlevens, we now benefit from the newly opened University of Gloucestershire Sports Arena at Plock Court. That will help the university’s own sports degrees students and teams, including the very successful University of Gloucestershire Women’s Rugby Union. Also, much of the time, through its partnership with the Aspire Trust, will also be used by community groups.

“And a fortnight ago, I was able to play on and help open the wonderful new King’s School hockey AstroTurf. This is good news for the school, and the headmaster is committed to a Community Use Agreement so this facility too will be used at least half the time by the wider Gloucester sports world, including clubs and schools and especially nearby Kingsholm Primary.

“I know sport can be thought of as an elitist thing, only for the super fit, and the rest of us can watch. Of course we all get a vicarious sense of joy when a star Gloucester team or individual does well, or a former Uni of Glos student like Lizzie Yarnold MBE wins Olympic medals.

“But sport can also be for all. We’d be a healthier and almost certainly happier city if we all joined in. Which is why I welcome probably the biggest change of all, the various runs organised in the city (with unbelievable commitment from many volunteers, all of whom I appreciate more than I can say).

“Some have charitable and cancer related themes like the Race for Life. Others are running clubs like the Hucclecote Runners and the Kingsway Runners who run for multiple charities.

“And there is a weekly (9am Saturday) Park Run in Gloucester Park which is now attended by about 300. There are blind runners, children in pushchairs and people of all ages, some walking, some running further or faster than others, but it’s not competitive for most of us. It is simply fun. Do encourage people you know to join in, and especially anyone feeling grumpy.

“That’s what sport should be all about – a city having fun. It starts with public playgrounds, and I think you will be amazed to know that over the last 10 years, Gloucester City Council has invested over £1 million in the city’s play areas – more than doubling the number that we used to have in 2007 (36) to the figure today (75).

“That is an astonishing achievement and means that most of my constituents do have a playground close to them for their children or grandchildren to use.

“Of course I haven’t covered everything – not even GL1 and its swimming, gym and indoor sports programmes, or my favourite sports (cricket, tennis and squash) and our amazing indoor tennis facilities at Oxtalls and the outdoor courts at Riverside.

“We have the only indoor cricket bowling machine open to all I know of in Gloucestershire, one of the oldest bowls clubs in the country at The Spa and one that uses an old Gloucester Wagon Works carriage destined for Argentina as a changing room (Winget Club, in Tuffley Park); and then there’s the great Climbing Warehouse.

“When you add it all up, sports is just another reason why I believe our city is getting more special every year.

“So do email me to let me know of other inspiring facilities, teams and individuals who make a difference to you and your family and friends.

“Do you agree that we have many more opportunities than we used to and are becoming a great city for sport? What more could we do?”

Email Richard Graham at richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk

Other Images

Race for Life in Gloucester Park in 2018
About 300 gather every Saturday morning for the Gloucester Park run
Then Sports Minister Helen Grant thought Gloucester Rugby’s HITZ programme was great

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