Aspire Boxing Club: Popular Sheffield club credited with turning youngsters lives around faces eviction

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Popular Aspire Boxing Club set to be evicted from its Sheffield base, as campaign launched to find new home

A popular Sheffield boxing club which has been credited with turning round the lives of vulnerable youngsters, is facing eviction.

The Aspire Boxing Club, run by Ronny Tucker for the last 34 years, has been told it must leave its base on part of a centre for children who have been excluded from school.

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The club has been meeting three times a week at one of the buildings on the Sheffield Inclusion Unit site, on Spring Lane, Arbourthorne, since 2017.

Ronny Tucker with Couns Nabeela Mowlana and Ben Miskell outside Aspire Boxing Club. Picture: Dean Atkins, National WorldRonny Tucker with Couns Nabeela Mowlana and Ben Miskell outside Aspire Boxing Club. Picture: Dean Atkins, National World
Ronny Tucker with Couns Nabeela Mowlana and Ben Miskell outside Aspire Boxing Club. Picture: Dean Atkins, National World | National World

But the exclusion unit says it now needs the building due to a rise in numbers of youngsters being excluded.

Those at the club, as well some local residents, are concerned that the community is going to lose an important facility as a result of the move.

The club also runs talks in schools warning youngsters of the dangers social problems such as gangs and knife crime.

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Mr Tucker said: "We have been running for 34 years. We are not just a boxing club. We cover areas such as youth crime, gangs and knife crime. We have recently been in schools delivering knife crime sessions. We are back in next week and would probably have reached over a thousand young people in school.

"What will happen to all the kids who come here? This is a free resource and there are not many of those. There are also kids who come who will never box, but like the gym."

Former cruiserweight world champion Johnny Nelson with Ronny Tucker at the Aspire Boxing Club. Picture: Ronny TuckerFormer cruiserweight world champion Johnny Nelson with Ronny Tucker at the Aspire Boxing Club. Picture: Ronny Tucker
Former cruiserweight world champion Johnny Nelson with Ronny Tucker at the Aspire Boxing Club. Picture: Ronny Tucker | Ronny Tucker

The lease runs out in June, and talks are now going on with officials at Sheffield Council to try to find another building for the club, which has been supported by the former world boxing champion Johnny Nelson.

Ronny has been told by youngsters and their families that the club has turned their lives around, when they have faced difficulties.

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"They understand what we do," said Ronny, who himself used to box at legendary Sheffield trainer Brendan Ingle's gym. "It's not just boxing."

He said the club had around 100 youngsters a week using it, in a part of Sheffield that is said to be deprived. The club also takes its members on boxing trips away, with their families. For some, it is their only holiday.

A delegation from the council visited the club on Wednesday to speak to Ronny about what could be done to find a new venue. Ronny said some of the youngsters who use the club spoke to the council officials, including some children who rarely speak, and said he was grateful for the support he was seeing from the council

Around 1,000 people have signed a petition supporting the club.

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The Sheffield Inclusion Centre said in a statement that it is the only school in Sheffield that works with children from Y1 to 11 who have been permanently excluded.

In the past two years there have been record numbers of children being permanently excluded from Sheffield mainstream schools

Sheffield Inclusion Centre statement

They added: "In the past two years there have been record numbers of children being permanently excluded from Sheffield mainstream schools and as such the local authority asked the school to take 50 over their official numbers, taking them up to 300 children on roll.

"As much as the school appreciates the great work the Aspire Boxing Club do, at present the school is paying public money to four private companies for small bases so they can educate all their children. The rates charged for the private bases are often inflated and the children are educated away from the main campus which is far from ideal. With a property on the school site and with the contract coming to an end, the school has made the decision not to renew the contract. This decision was made clear to the Boxing Club last summer.

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"The contract for the gym ends in 2024 and being a building in the middle of the school site, the school will use the gym building as a centre for children with Special Educational Needs. The school has a record 51 children with an EHCPs on roll and it will perhaps be a surprise that the school has children permanently excluded from special schools, pupils with diagnoses of autism and two non verbal children. Hence, a specialist base has become necessary.

"This was not a decision made without much thought and consideration, but with the rising number of children being permanently excluded in the city, they had to make the decision to prioritise these children."

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