Homeless Hoops reach out for a new training site

Theo Meade, 15, is trained by Dr Vish Anand at Oxford City Hoops basketball club

Head coach Franky Marulanda

First published in Sport Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Witney and West Oxfordshire. Call me on 01865 425483

SPORTS clubs in Oxford are desperate for a new home after having nowhere to practise for the past four months.

Oxford City Hoops basketball and Lions futsal clubs have led a nomadic existence traipsing across Oxfordshire, Swindon and Aylesbury since February.

They had called the former postal sorting office at Oxford Business Park in Garsington Road, Cowley, their home when it opened as a sports facility last September, but it closed four months later.

The former Royal Mail centre, which originally closed in 2009 when the company moved its operations to Swindon, has been put up for sale by owner Plumbing Pensions UK Ltd.

Hoops head coach Franky Marulanda said: “We’ve got 400 members but there’s no facilities in Oxford to play, which makes it very difficult for us to grow.

“The centre was the way forward and the way everything was going to be cemented as we thought we had a home.

“Since February we have had no training sessions and have just had games because we couldn’t get the facilities.

“We need somewhere for 36 hours a week minimum but it’s difficult to get regular slots. It’s such a shame.”

Colin Taylor, managing director of the Oxford City charity that is co-owned by American businessman Thomas Guerriero, said a small warehouse would be ideal for the clubs.

He said: “Our futsal team is one of the best in the country. When we were in the mail centre the demand for under-eights and upwards was absolutely tremendous. There were hundreds of people using it. An old warehouse works really well and having tried it for about four months it’s opened our eyes.

“It’s a massive building but we think a smaller warehouse is within our financial capability.”

Mr Guerriero said he wanted to build a new complex for the basketball and futsal teams next to Oxford City FC’s Marsh Lane ground but it was unfeasible.

Mr Marulanda claimed Oxford City spent up to £30,000 on cleaning and maintaining the building, as well as installing equipment, seating for 300 people, four futsal pitches and three basketball courts.

He said he believed a loose lease agreement was in place with Royal Mail to use the facility until June 2016.

But Royal Mail spokeswoman Val Bodden said: “An inspection of the property revealed that the use of the premises was not compliant with the orignal letting agreement. The club was asked to vacate the premises and it is now vacant.”

Property agent DTZ, acting on behalf of the owner, refused to comment.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said: “It’s an employment site and the owners wanted to sell it as an employment site, which is much more valuable than a leisure facility in their terms.

“There are a lot of indoor spaces but perhaps not enough for what the clubs want.

“And there’s not very much in the way of warehouse space because economic prosperity means everything has been taken up.”

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