Sports clubs team up to fight council takeover

Edinburgh Basketball Club will face financial pressure should the plans go ahead. Picture: comp
Edinburgh Basketball Club will face financial pressure should the plans go ahead. Picture: comp
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SPORTS clubs have united to fight plans for Edinburgh Leisure taking over school sports facilities, amid fears of price hikes of up to 80 per cent.

Clubs also fear their access will be reduced as the council arms-length firm steps in to hire out venues to the general public.

City leaders have proposed Edinburgh Leisure manages school sport departments outside class hours, ­generating up to £1 million income.

But consortium, the Association of Activities Providers (AAP), has been formed to fight the proposals.

They are concerned the transfer – agreed in principle – would force clubs to increase membership fees and this could result in less choice of sports training.

AAP has also claimed the plans would give EL a “monopoly” and drive private clubs out of business, despite the addition of a clause ensuring a “mixed economy of delivery.”

Gail Smith, managing director of SwimEasy and a past president of Warrender Swim Centre, stressed the consortium was still in the “early stages” but that their campaign was gathering momentum.

The group will seek recognition from the Federation of Small Businesses, which has already expressed concerns the EL takeover would be “unfair” and “anti-business.”

Under the opposition plans, members will “meet regularly”, create a website outlining their aims and invite other sports clubs to join the group.

Ms Smith said AAP was prepared to mount a legal challenge to the transfer and that she would be prepared to meet any legal costs herself: “We want to stop this attempted monopoly and to continue to operate as we have done,” she said.

She also claimed that dedicated sports clubs were better qualified to nurture a higher calibre of athlete than EL.

“SwimEasy, for example, has produced five swimmers that competed in the Commonwealth Games,” she said, “but they wouldn’t have got there going to EL.

“It [the EL takeover] would completely destroy sport across the city because they would never produce the athletes [that dedicated sports clubs do].”

Keith Anderson, of Aquatic Learning, also a member of the consortium, said he was concerned access by sports clubs would be reduced and block bookings may no longer be possible.

The group already has the backing of swimming providers, including Swimming Nature, Aquatic Learning and Water Babies, but a charity or not-for-profit club is free to join.

The council was unable to provide a timetable for transfer, and declined to comment.

It is understood the council’s Children and Families Department charges £25 an hour for its smaller pools, and £46 an hour for larger ones. Commercial charges are believed to be £30-an-hour for a small pool, and £75-an-hour for a larger pool. Margaret Gibson, chairman of Edinburgh City Volleyball, said they would have to increase fees if EL took over.