Youth sports in crisis in Tower Hamlets

THYSF is facing closure unless it can secure funds from the council Pic: Tower Hamlets Youth Sports Foundation

Tower Hamlets Youth Sports Foundation (THYSF) says it is in “peril” after failing to secure extra funding from the council.

The foundation, which currently reaches over 30,000 young people with extra-curricular sports in schools across the borough, has drafted a petition to be sent to Mayor John Biggs to request more financial support.

Founded in 2004, the organisation originally operated as part of the Tower Hamlets School Sports Partnership until the government defunded the scheme nationally in 2011. The majority of THYSF’s funding now comes from local schools and a board of trustees who fundraise through corporate sponsorship.

Langdon Park School in Poplar employs the foundation’s 18 staff members but THYSF says it is no longer financially sustainable for local schools to support employees and needs additional council funds to stay afloat.

Chris Dunne, Chair of THYSF, told ELL: “The agreement originally was that all the schools pay into this programme and that the council would, for instance, help pay for the entry costs of the London Youth Games. They haven’t and that alone cost us nearly£250,000 in the last five years.”

The council first advised the foundation to set up a trust to remain in operation however Dunne said, after seeking legal advice, that this was not a viable option.

THSYF will be forced to close if it cannot secure additional council funds and its staff will be made redundant. “We’re simply saying no! The council should help provide alternatives,” Dunne added.

A benchmarking report from Tower Hamlets concluded that the council spends less of its£3.8 million sports budget on young people than other London boroughs because of the foundation’s contributions.

Dunne said: “We’re basically saving the council money. They should now be using some of the nearly £4 million pounds that Tower Hamlets spends on sport on this. Schools would still make a contribution but it would be a reduced contribution because they can no longer afford to support this completely.”

THYSF provides over 400 hours of sports activity per week as well as inter-school competitions and access to PE for disabled students.

Five years on from the London Summer Olympics, the foundation says it is proud to carry on the legacy by offering opportunities for Tower Hamlets youth to take part in competitive badminton, basketball, cricket, fencing, gymnastics, handball, hockey, judo, tennis and weightlifting.

Locals have voiced their concern over the possibility of losing the foundation all together.

Rachel Mahon, a head teacher in the borough, said: “To lose the provision THYSF provides for children of all abilities will have a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of young people in Tower Hamlets. THYSF ensures all our youth reap the benefits of our Olympic legacy. Why would we want to lose that?”

Kamrul Islam, who grew up participating in THYSF activities, added: “This program is amazing, It played major part in mine and many other individuals’ developments and integration into the UK.”

Tower Hamlets is considered one of the best sporting boroughs in London and as of last month, ranked sixth out of 33 boroughs in the London Youth Games. THYSF also took home the “Most Improved Borough” award for Tower Hamlets at this year’s event.

The council will hold a meeting next week to make decisions over the future of THYSF staff and programmes. The foundation is hoping to get the 1,000 petition signatures needed to force a council debate over the future funding of the organisation.

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