‘Blow to Olympic legacy’ – Boxing club forced to close in repair row with Sunderland Council

Boxing coach Paul Quarmby (right) with boxers outside thier former gym at the ex-library in Hetton.
Boxing coach Paul Quarmby (right) with boxers outside thier former gym at the ex-library in Hetton.
Have your say

A PRESTIGIOUS boxing club that created four national champions has been forced to close.

Since opening eight years ago, Hetton Town Boxing Club has helped hundreds of young Wearsiders turn their lives around.

Run by dedicated staff on a voluntary basis, the club produced 26 North East champions and provided a lifeline to boys and girls who would otherwise be hanging around on street corners.

Some of the country’s most promising young fighters trained at the club under lead coach and former pro-boxer Paul Quarmby.

But Mr Quarmby has been left devastated, claiming he was forced to close due to rental and repair bills which he could not meet.

Now, the 40-year-old trainer, who fought under Billy Hardy, has been landed with a £12,626 bill from Sunderland City Council for repairs to the former Hetton Library, where the club has been based.

Sunderland City Council today said the bill reflects Mr Quarmby not “meeting his responsibilities” as tenant of the building.

But Mr Quarmby hit back saying he spent more than £15,000 on the building which was a vital asset to the community.

He said: “It’s a disgrace. How quickly the Olympic legacy has been forgotten.”

“Last year, we were bombarded about the importance of grassroots sport and keeping the momentum going. Yet, here we have a club, run by volunteers, helping transform the lives of young people in the area, and training national champions, that has now been forced to close.

“Already, I’m hearing about some of the young people slipping back into bad habits and getting into trouble with the police.”

The club took over the former library, in Front Street, in September 2004, with the aim of creating a gym and training centre for the whole community.

Paul, who fought as a super bantamweight, says at least £15,000 was spent on renovations due to the poor state of 
the building including a new floor and kitchen.

He said: “When we first took over the place it was absolutely rotten, but we were told any repairs were down to us, so we spent a lot of money doing up the place.”

The club was put on to a “peppercorn rent”, which meant they paid a nominal £5 a year, providing they covered all other costs.

But last September, there was a change in rent structure, meaning the club would have to pay up to £150 per week.

“Even if we could afford to cover the rent, we could no longer afford the repairs,” said Paul. “In the end we had no choice but to close.”

Over the years, the club has produced some of the most promising young fighters in the region, including professional boxer Jordan King, 21, and Tyne, Tees and Wear champion Leon Burley.

Janet Johnson, deputy chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “Under the terms of the lease, it is a legal requirement of the tenant to ensure the property is kept in a proper state of repair.

“Mr Quarmby failed to meet his responsibilities and a surveyor found that the buildings had been allowed to fall into a dilapidated state. As leaseholder he is therefore in breach of contract and liable for the cost of repairs.

“Mr Quarmby was invited to apply for a new lease under the council’s Surplus Building Policy, which offers the opportunity to apply for a discounted rental, but Mr Quarmby declined this offer.

“Our officers were in regular contact with Mr Quarmby to address his concerns and provide help and advice.

“Mr Quarmby declined to apply for a new lease under this policy, so did not qualify for a discounted rental and was offered a commercial rent instead to allow continued occupation in the building.”