Sports association collapses amid ‘lack of support’

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From left outside the Woodside pavilion are Cllr John Olliff-Cooper and Cllr Alan Penson with former LSA directors Mark Seamer, Sally Steggell and Simon Olliff

A COMMUNITY group launched with ambitious plans to boost sports around Lymington has been dissolved without explanation.

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The volunteer-run Lymington Sports Association (LSA) has shut down only a few years since it was unveiled to great fanfare as a way of coordinating and supporting clubs and activity around the town and surrounding area.

A lack of unpaid helpers is thought to have contributed to its unexpected collapse – but former trustees have remained silent about what has happened.

The charitable organisation was based at Woodside pavilion, off Rookes Lane, for which it had signed a 25-year management lease with the owner, Lymington and Pennington Town Council.

A more than £300,000 refurbishment was completed in September 2016 with an external makeover and upgraded facilities including showers, toilets and a bar.

With the Lymington Sports Association’s demise, the town council has now stepped in to run the building with a promise to make sure sports fixtures previously arranged through the LSA would go ahead.

Users of the changing rooms there include Lymington Mariners RFC, Lymington Sprites Youth FC, and the New Forest Football Academy.

However, Lymington Woodside Waggers dog owners’ club, which used the pavilion for hot drinks, has suspended its regular Wednesday meet-ups.

Woodside pavilion had a more than £300,000 refurbishment

The weekly Parkrun which draws about 130 people for a 5km jog every Saturday morning will still go ahead.

Trustees listed with the national charity regulator the Charity Commission were Mark Seamer who was the chair, Philip Jenner, Simon Olliff and Michelle Frampton.

Mr Seamer, who resigned as director from the Lymington Sports Association’s fundraising trading arm in November 2017, did not respond to repeated attempts by the A&T for an explanation of the group’s dissolution.

Former LSA vice-chair James Brushwood, who is also a member of Lymington and Pennington Town Council, declined to make a statement. He resigned as a Lymington Sports Association company director in October 2017.

Town clerk Caroline Godfrey said: “The town council has been informed that Lymington Sports Association Ltd who held a long-term lease to operate from the Woodside park pavilion has been dissolved.

“The full circumstances and implications have yet to become clear, but residents can be reassured that the town council will be doing everything within its powers to ensure that users of the Woodside park facilities are not inconvenienced and sporting activities can continue as normal.”

She said the lease had originally been agreed as “cost neutral” to the council, which was now having to pay pavilion bills previously covered by the LSA.

However, she said the council did not have the staff to pick up activities such as opening the pavilion as an occasional café for activities at Woodside.

Cllr Peter Allen, chair of the council’s amenities committee and president of Lymington Mariners, described the LSA’s demise as “disappointing”.

“The problem has been the lack of volunteers. They were just overwhelmed,” he said.

The town council would take its time before coming up with a plan to manage Woodside pavilion and take the place of the LSA, he added.

Lymington Sprites Youth FC chair Ian Loveless said: “The council and us are working very closely together to get business as usual happening. I just want our 100-plus kids to play football every week.

“It’s always disappointing when a vision does not seem to have matured. But as with all these things, it’s a community effort that’s required and we will have to get together to take things forward.”

The LSA’s trading arm was to help it raise funding to support its charitable sporting objectives, which it said was a structure similar to the RNLI and Oakhaven Hospice.

In August 2017 the LSA company was still solvent with reserves of nearly £3,000, according to the last balance sheet submitted to Companies House.

However, on 12th February this year it was dissolved via a compulsory strike-off after notice was lodged on 27th November last year.

Six months earlier in May its registered office was changed from Woodside pavilion to an address in Shrubbs Avenue, Lymington, where 40-year-old Mr Seamer also has a registered Companies House address.

The Charity Commission said documents for the association were more than 240 days overdue.

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