Banished star Cal MacAinch fighting for Sparta AAC

Cal MacAninch, who appears in the BBC drama Banished, is backing a fight to save Sparta AAC boxing club. Pic: BBC/Mark Rogers
Cal MacAninch, who appears in the BBC drama Banished, is backing a fight to save Sparta AAC boxing club. Pic: BBC/Mark Rogers
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A TV star has thrown his weight behind the fight to save a famous boxing club where Scottish ring legend Ken Buchanan honed his skills.

Sparta AAC, based at Fishwives Causeway, Portobello, is set to be knocked out of its premises at the end of the month to make way for a new supermarket and housing development.

Sparta Boxing Club boss George Forsyth. Pic: Sandy Young

Sparta Boxing Club boss George Forsyth. Pic: Sandy Young

But Cal MacAninch, who is currently starring in BBC historical drama Banished as Sergeant Timmins, is hoping to raise awareness of the plight facing the decades-old club.

The 50-year-old - who also featured in hit ITV series Mr Selfridge - said he had been impressed with the organisation and the “extraordinary” difference it made to young people’s lives after training there in preparation for a fight scene in Banished, which tells the story of the first fleet of convicts to be shipped from the UK to Australia.

He said: “I went to Sparta because I wanted to look as if I knew what I was doing. I only had six weeks before I went to Australia and I was thrown in with the boys training for the Scottish championships.

“Seeing young guys from the community being given a purpose was extraordinary. I have seen some of them around the streets and they have a confidence about themselves which otherwise they wouldn’t have.

“I thought, ‘What a great place for kids to go.’ It’s gives a great sense of wellbeing and having that in a community is invaluable.”

Sparta AAC moved to its current site from McDonald Road, off Leith Walk, in 2009, after a temporary period based in the Meadowbank area.

But last year it emerged Aldi and Cruden Homes are set to be build a supermarket and up to 200 homes at the Baileyfield Industrial Estate, forcing the boxing club to find new premises elsewhere.

In February George Forsyth, who has run the club since 1994, revealed he was struggling to find an affordable new venue for the club’s 18 registered boxers.

He said: “We’ve not been resting on our laurels and have been looking for something continuously. We do what we can on a shoestring and we’ve never relied on other people for funding but we’re at a crossroads.

“We’ve been here five years but last June were told our contract was up in December. Six months has flown by, but everywhere we’ve looked at is just so expensive to rent.

“I don’t get any financial gain out of it. Any money we make at club shows goes back into the club.

“It’s about getting laddies off the street to try to do something. There’s a lot who can’t afford anything else and we keep the money as low as possible charge-wise.

“Unfortunately, the prices people are asking are out of our league. I can afford at the very most about £2000 a year on rent. The cheapest place I have seen which could be classed as a gym is an old garage which would cost about £1000 to do up and they wanted £7000 a year in advance.

“I watched Cal in Banished and thought he did a great job. He had good composure and the programme showed him doing what every boxer should be doing – checking up on your opponent.”