2011 became a momentous year for sport in Dulwich as a group of volunteers rallied together to save the playing fields on Turney Road. The ground, managed by South Bank University and its predecessor organisations since the 1940’s, was closed in the Autumn of 2010 by the University who planned to leave the grounds fallow for the remaining seven years of the lease. The University offered the ground to the Dulwich Estate and also to the London Borough of Southwark but both were unable to assist.
As news had spread of the closure local residents were alarmed and local sports clubs saw another sporting facility about to close. A consortium of user sports clubs thus opened negotiations with the University about a possible take over of the lease and light appeared at the end of the tunnel. The clubs established a new legal entity called the Southwark Community Sports Trust (“the Trust”) which was constituted as a Community Interest Company. After a labyrinthine legal process, the trust emerged as the new managers of the ground. Aided by a grant from the University, the Trust took responsibility of the grounds in January 2011 and recruited founder members and member clubs.
A new concept in sports ground management, the creation of the Trust was made possible by the work of officers drawn from Dulwich Cricket, South Bank CUACO Football Club, South Bank Youth FC and the Lambeth and Southwark Primary Schools Football Association. The Company Secretary, Stuart McKee designed the Trust to be a provider organisation for sport so that the participating clubs could join the Trust but none of them would have to bear solely the potentially crushing financial and administrative burdens. It was important that the Trust was established and constituted on a not for profit basis and that it was significantly volunteer led. The Trust is managed by a board of directors comprising the founding member clubs. The Chairman is John Smith who has been President of Dulwich Cricket Club for twenty five years. After the start up, South Bank Cricket Club joined as a founder member with Jon Thornton becoming Treasurer.
Starting out as a new venture brought problems of start-up finance and bills to pay. An early decision was to continue to offer sporting facilities at the same rate as before closure. The Trust was helped considerably by officers from the London Borough of Southwark in the early months despite being unable to help The Trust financially. The Trust lawyers Sharpe Pritchard enabled the lease transfer and the negotiations with LSBU. They agreed to waive some charges and allowed a payment of fees only once The Trust was on its feet. After a first year of trading, The Trust is able to announce a small surplus and is committed to building a strong financial position to renew the lease in December 2017.
The model of management for The Trust is a volunteer led organisation with significant contributions made by the founder clubs. John and Jackie Howard came forward from South Bank Youth FC and Dulwich CC and together with their sons forged a team managing the facilities on day-by-day basis. They open the facilities, liaise with the ground contractors, provide refreshments and a members bar. They have become the welcoming face of The Trust and we all know that the re-opening could not have been managed without their unique contributions.
The underlying philosophy of The Trust directors is to provide sport at all levels from youngsters through to more senior members. A typical footballing day sees junior and youth teams starting out with teams all the way up to the senior league football as played in the Southern Amateur League. All of this activity is watched by parents and former players. The Trust has two veteran clubs playing on Sundays and now stages football tournaments for local schools. Midweek sees an opportunity to open the ground to local schools and so far ten schools have affiliated to the facility in the heart of Dulwich village.
The twenty one acre site has three cricket squares which enable Dulwich CC to utilise pitches for some of its seven senior men’s teams, the ladies’ eleven and the fourteen colts teams supported by the Burbage Road based club. South Bank CC which has played at Turney Road for some time has seen a spurt in membership since the creation of The Trust and some security for the club. In the first year of operation 466 games of football and 276 cricket matches were organised, being represented as 17,000 uses of the facilities which equates to over 4,000 individuals participating in sport. In addition to this The Trust hosted a number of school sports day, representative cricket matches and some significant charity events.
Surrey County Cricket Club and the English Cricket Board have been staunch supporters of The Trust since the early days of threatened permanent closure. Their support was firmly demonstrated when Sport England under their “Inspired Facilities “ scheme made a grant of £45,000 to The Trust for the construction of artificial surfaces and a three lane outdoor net facility. In addition The Lord’s Taverners have contributed £4,000 to this project. These nets will shortly be opened by former England bowler and MCC President, Derek Underwood and Tessa Jowell, the local MP. The artificial surfaces will allow a further increase in participation in sport as local schools during the day and local companies in the evenings use the facilities.
The twenty one member cricket and football clubs are drawn from within the community of Dulwich and Southwark and are determined to deliver the continuance of sporting facilities at Turney Road. In the coming year, the directors hope to make more use of the facility for the local community and talks with Surrey County Cricket club are in advanced stage about providing for disabled cricket at the ground.