This Strategic Plan is intended to set the background to the governance and operation of the Sports Trust and to present the opportunities, challenges and priorities that face the Trust over the next 3 years, against which its annual business plans will be formulated and delivered.
The Sports Trust is an open access, not for profit organisation whose philosophy is to provide high quality, affordable sport for all sections of the community of Wallingford and the surrounding area. It achieves this at Wallingford Sports Park, by providing the environment, facilities and support in which each of its constituent clubs and community activities can flourish.
Wallingford Sports Trust was established in 1972, when the existing and separate Cricket, Football, Men’s and Ladies’ Hockey, Rugby, Squash, Tennis and Archery Clubs agreed to come together under the single banner of a charitable trust, whose purpose was to provide sport on a single site at Hithercroft Road, leased from SODC at a concessionary rent. Since that time, the Archery Club has disbanded and the Skittles Club, formerly located at Pauls Malt, has joined the Trust.
The Trust is, therefore, a registered charity whose executive consists of a group of Trustees, mainly drawn from the Clubs. The Clubs, themselves, are open to anybody in the area to join and aim to keep playing costs down to a sensible minimum by encouraging maximum participation from members in their running, as well as in playing for them.
The Trust’s only full time employee is a professional Sports Park Manager, who reports to the Trust Chairman and is responsible for a part time book keeper, hourly paid bar/catering staff and contracted out services such as cleaning and grounds maintenance. The Chairman, himself, is supported by an Executive Cabinet, drawn from the Trustees, who formally meet monthly, but in practice are actively involved in financial and operational matters on a continuous basis
Nearly all roles for the Trust and its constituent Clubs are thus undertaken on a voluntary basis by members of the local community.
Whilst the Sports Park is operated under a single management structure, in order to separate the commercial activities involving the bar and kitchen from those directly controlled by the charitable Trust, Wallingford Sports and Social Club operates as a VAT registered, distinct legal entity with its own set of accounts. In practice, any surplus generated by the Sports and Social Club is gift-aided to the Trust as rent in order to subsidise playing costs and support the Trust’s objective of providing affordable sport
Summary of performance so far
Wallingford Sports Park is recognised in SODC’s Leisure and Sports Facilities Strategy as a Tier One Outdoor Facility and, as such, is the principal provider of outdoor sport for the Wallingford area. The Sports Park has outdoor facilities for soccer, rugby, hockey, cricket and tennis, including a multi-sport, synthetic, floodlit all-weather pitch (AWP), but it also provides indoor facilities for squash courts, skittles and darts plus community space in the form of a main hall and function rooms. There is an outdoor fitness trail and the grounds are used in connection with community events such as the Bunkfest, various rallies and for Carnival floats.
This unique combination of an affordable, multi-sport facility and community centre, with its sense of ownership from those who participate within it, is one without which the variety, quantity, quality and value-for-money of sport in the area would simply not exist. It is a well managed and very successful centre, which keeps its playing costs down by concentrating ‘off-field’ activities in the single Pavilion and by maximising income from its social facilities and the hire of the AWP, both of which are available to anyone regardless of membership status.
In spite of progressively reducing running costs, in revenue terms the Trust has historically done little more than break even and has significant unfulfilled financial obligations in the form of a 10 year sinking fund for replacing the AWP and debts from personal loans, which part funded the last pitch replacement. Furthermore, because the Sports Park is operating at capacity in terms of available facilities and because it has never set out to generate a financial surplus, it is in need of capital investment. Although the Trust has been successful with bids to SODC (in support of the AWP) and to WREN (in support of energy saving measures for the Pavilion) and individual Clubs have actively sought and invested grant moneys drawn from their respective national governing bodies (FA, RFU, LTA. HA etc), the facilities are under pressure and in need of development and expansion.
Opportunities and challenges
For all its historical and ongoing challenges, the Sports Park has successfully established itself as a key component at the heart of the community and should be cherished as such. The opportunity now exists to establish, fully, a sustainable business model that will give confidence to:
- maintain the provision of affordable sporting and social facilities for its existing Clubs
- develop the Sports Park as a wider, inclusive sporting and community facility
- fully integrate its activities into the broader political and social aim of encouraging greater participation in sport by the community
- pro-actively accommodate the projected increase in local population due to housing growth in the area
- develop positive relationships with potential ongoing funders for development and expansion of the Sports Park
Priorities and aims for the coming years
- support existing Clubs, particularly through difficult times, to ensure the sustainability and development of individual sports and overall viability of the Sports Park
- encourage the introduction of additional and complementary sports
- develop the brand of ‘Wallingford Sport’ with other providers of sport in the Town, principally the Rowing Club and Wallingford School
- continue to strengthen the links with both SODC and Wallingford Town Council, to both influence and support formal strategies for sport and leisure and play a full part in their delivery for the local community
- continue to provide affordable sport and community activities, through the competitive pricing structures of the individual clubs, the AWP hire rates, bar and kitchen prices and regime for hiring out the facilities in the Pavilion
- increase income through use of the Pavilion for weekday daytime and weekend evening activities, to generate a revenue surplus of at least £25k pa by the end of 2012/13
- establish a sinking fund of at least £15k pa, for AWP resurfacing by the end of 2012/13
- remove existing debt obligations by the end of 2013
- instigate a programme for developing the Sports Park to include refurbishing/extending the changing rooms and toilets, upgrading/extending car parking and pedestrian/cycle routes and increasing/diversifying playing facilities
- prepare for the review by SODC of the current rent in 2015, when the 90% discount on £16,600 will be reconsidered
Changes required to deliver these priorities
- Consider widening the scope of Elected Trustees to bring in fresh ideas not influenced by ‘club allegiance’
- Schedule 1 & 2 of the Lease (which is effectively the Trust Constitution) to be reviewed to ensure it is relevant to the current operation
- Similarly, rules governing the Sports & Social Club to be reviewed
- Comprehensive set of documentation for the Trust to be established, including an up to date set of policies/procedures and governance arrangements with the clubs
- Business Plans to be issued and approved by Trustees on an annual basis commencing with 2012/13
- Succession Plans to be put in place for the Trustees on the Executive Cabinet
Tracking the progress of this strategy
- It will form the basis of discussions with SODC on a 6 monthly basis
- The Business Plan itself will be monitored by the Executive Cabinet on a monthly basis and reported on at Trustees meetings