Sparta AAC boxing club faces closure

Sparta head coach Scott Forsyth spars with promising amateur Declan Sands. Picture: Jon Savage
Sparta head coach Scott Forsyth spars with promising amateur Declan Sands. Picture: Jon Savage
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The boxing club where ring legend Ken Buchanan honed his skills is facing closure after being knocked out by a new supermarket.

Sparta AAC, formed in Edinburgh 70 years ago, is desperately seeking a new home after receiving notice that its existing building at Fishwives Causeway, Portobello, will be demolished later this year.

Aldi is set to build a new supermarket at the Baileyfield Industrial Estate, along with 200 new homes.

It means the boxing club is being forced to leave its home of six years.

Club leader George Forsyth, who has been with Sparta since 1994, is frantically trying to find new premises. 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.”

Construction work to clear the existing site is well under way, with only the boxing gym remaining intact.

Mr Forsyth and his 18 registered boxers at the club have accepted their future lies elsewhere.

He said: “Boxing is a poor man’s game and you’ll never make money running a boxing club.

“When I first started all this in 1994, it was great fun, but that’s been zapped out of me since all these new regulations have come in.

“Our lease was up at the start of January so they could come knocking on our door at any time. We’re now on a penny contract per month but it really is just a matter of time before we’re out the door.

“We are in desperate need of somewhere to go. We’d need to put all our stuff into storage and shut the doors if we can’t find anywhere soon.”

Buchanan, 69, made his name at the gym and went on to become world, 
European and British lightweight champion.

Regardless of the impending outcome, Sparta are scheduled to host their club show at the Hibs Club on Sunnyside in April.

Mr Forsyth said: “Any money we make at club shows goes back into the club and that’s the way it will always be, regardless of the situation we are in.

“We’re taking the kids off the streets and helping them give something back.”

On the ropes since 2005

Founded in 1945 by Scottish middleweight boxer Jimmy Robertson, Sparta was forced to relocate from its spiritual home on McDonald Road, off Leith Walk, after developers sold the land in 2005.

A temporary move to the Meadowbank area then followed before a switch to the building within the Baileyfield Industrial Estate was secured in 2009.

Budget shopping chain Aldi and housebuilder Cruden have joined forces to develop the former ScottishPower site.

Councillors gave their plans the go-ahead late last year.