England: The Thriving Heart of Stafford Hockey Laid Bare

Following on from the announcement from Beacon Sport and Fitness that they are re-laying their artificial pitch and turning it into a 3G surface, Stafford Hockey Club are looking for support from their local community and further afield in securing a new playing pitch surface in the local area.

After 30 years at Beacon Sport and Fitness, previously known as Beaconside Sports Centre, Stafford Hockey Club now find themselves in the challenging situation of having no home pitch to play on for the foreseeable future. Following the recent successes in Olympics, Euros and Commonwealth Games, our aim as a community amateur sports club is to continue to inspire all people, but particularly young girls in getting into team sports. We believe there is already a lack of provision in the Stafford area for young people to get into sport and that is now being further amplified by the lack of playing pitch provision for hockey in the Stafford area. As part of Stafford’s oldest sporting club (Stafford Cricket and Hockey Club, founded in 1864), we now face the challenge of travelling to play our home matches and attend training, increasing the risk of players leaving the club and us being unable to deliver the provision of hockey to local people that has been in place for over 150 years.

The once thriving heart of Stafford Hockey Club now laid bare ready for 3G football.

England Hockey state that one of their ambitions is to double the number of hockey players from 140,000 to 280,000. Their aim is to do this by supporting clubs to grow participation year on year and by encouraging a wide participation of hockey in schools. England Hockey also intend to develop hockey’s infrastructure by implementing their facilities strategy to secure better long-term arrangements for clubs. It is our intention to continue to be a significant part of this ambition within the Staffordshire area. With 5 mens teams, 4 ladies teams, a mixed team, veterans teams and multiple junior players, Stafford Hockey Club provides opportunities for individuals of all ages and abilities to stay fit and healthy whilst having fun and meeting new people. We currently play a significant role in the hockey ecosystem in both the Staffordshire and Midlands areas and our intention is to continue to do this, despite the significant challenges that currently face us as a sporting organisation. 

The impact of sport on our communities speaks for itself and as a provider of sporting opportunities for the people of Stafford, we believe that it is vital that the provision of hockey within the Stafford area is able to continue. Sport England state that there are currently seven million children aged five to 15 in England and more than half are not doing the recommended daily amount of exercise. The Chief Medical Officer in England recommends that children do at least 60 minutes of activity every day, this isn’t currently the case for the majority of young people. Similarly, research shows that many women are not currently as active as they would like to be, in fact, 39% of women aged 16 and over are not active enough to get the full health benefits of sport and physical activity. Stafford Hockey Club aims to address both of these issues through our comprehensive training and match-day opportunities. 

The following quote, taken from a letter from The Commonwealth Games Men’s and Women’s Hockey teams, who each won gold and bronze respectively at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss speaks of the importance of team sports for children and young people:

New research led by Portas Consulting, in collaboration with England Hockey, England and Wales Cricket Board, England Netball, England Rugby and the Football Association (‘The Social and Economic Value of Childhood Sport Participation in England’) shows children’s mental and physical wellbeing is significantly enhanced by playing team sport with children reporting 12% higher life satisfaction and 6% higher happiness, which creates positive habits and brings significant benefits in older age. However, Sport England recently reported that four million children aged between 5 and 16 failed to meet minimum recommended activity levels during the last year.

This is further reinforced by feedback from our junior members. Viviana Gaibisso, mother of Thomas aged 13, said: “This is the first time in Thomas’ life that he feels close to a group of people and enjoys playing a sport, never in the past has he been so enthusiastic about any sport activity. This club is allowing Thomas to improve his social skills, the environment is really friendly and welcoming and is giving him more and more confidence to socialise, which is usually a little difficult for him”. Eloise Gommersall, junior player aged 14, said: “Hockey at Stafford has been such a big part of my life so far and I would hate for it to stop. I was diagnosed with double curve spinal scoliosis early January and have to have major surgery to fix it. Hockey is one of the things that helped me stay healthy and fit for my operation and is one of the main factors that is going to push me to recover as quickly as possible after my surgery. Now knowing that I may have nothing to come back to leaves me distraught. The team has been together for so long our bond is stronger than any other team I know”.

Charlotte May-Wymer, Chair at Stafford Hockey Club, said: “It is clear that Stafford Hockey Club has had a significant impact on the communities within Stafford for the 150 years since its inception in 1864. Owing to the actions of one local private institution hockey will no longer be played in Staffordshire’s county town. Players will now have to travel out of the area to undertake hockey activities and the club run the risk of losing players to other neighbouring organisations. We are devastated about this news and call on anyone who understands the importance of team sports for people of all ages to come together and help us”. 

Stafford Hockey Club are looking for support from individuals, communities and organisations to support us in our plans to continue to deliver hockey training and matches for all across the Stafford area. We expect to do this by fundraising to build our own pitch on or near our clubhouse on Riverway, investing in relationships with local primary and secondary schools and developing connections with other local community groups such as Girlguides and Scouts. If this is something that you could help with, please reach out to staffordhockey@gmail.com to speak to a member of the committee or donate directly to our Crowd Funder.

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