Sheffield City Trust: Timeline of what we know about the events leading up to the extended closure of Ponds Forge

Sheffield City Trust hit headlines recently with its “devastating” decision to keep Ponds Forge closed and reopen most of its other venues.

Thursday, 27th August 2020, 12:30 pm

It follows significant financial difficulty and comes amid plans for hundreds of redundancies.

The Trust was formed for the World Student Games and has been the city’s biggest leisure provider run “for and by Sheffield” for 33 years.

It manages a total of 17 facilities including Ponds Forge, FlyDSA Arena, iceSheffield, City Hall, Hillsborough Leisure Centre and the English Institute of Sport Sheffield (EISS).

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Underwater Hockey Age Group World Championships 2019 at Ponds Forge in Sheffield GB v Columbia

Here is a timeline of what we know so far about the temporary closure of Ponds Forge and the financial challenges which have contributed to the decision:

2019

It started with a £1 million emergency loan and later a £2.8 million subsidy and £3 million grant for maintenance and safety.

Later in the year, SCT signed a deal with Ticketmaster to help sell more tickets.

March 2020

Covid-19 struck and forced all of the Trust’s venues to close.

The council said as a result of these closures, around £35 million worth of income streams supporting leisure venues in the city “largely ceased overnight”.

June 2020

The council used emergency powers to give the Trust a £2.6 million grant to meet additional costs and lost revenue caused by the pandemic.

July 2020

SCT announced a rebrand after 33 years, saying it will from now on only be known as Sheffield City Trust, not Sheffield International Venues (SIV) as it was previously known. This also came with a new logo. Andrew Snelling, chief executive of SCT, said the decision was made to help highlight its charitable status.

It also announced Sheffield City Hall and FlyDSA Arena will be mothballed for the foreseeable future due to mass gatherings, such as the large events they were designed for, still not being allowed under government coronavirus restrictions.

August 2020

The government said leisure venues could reopen on July 25 and after a few weeks where customers raised frustrations about the lack of dates, SCT announced it would be reopening most of its leisure facilities except Ponds Forge International Sports Centre.

This decision brought joy for some and devastation for others, who said if Ponds Forge does not reopen before April 2021 - which David Parry, Swim England’s north east regional officer, said would be a “best case scenario” - the clubs, some of which are among the best in the country, may not survive.

It also revealed around 300 jobs at the Trust were at risk of redundancy.

Sheffield Council announced it would provide up to £15 million support for SCT for the 2020/21 financial year, which is £10 million more than originally budgeted for, to help it reopen most venues.

What next?

Sports clubs based at Ponds Forge are continuing to campaign for it to reopen and are working on plans to allow it to be opened for clubs only.

Sheffield Council said it was not in a position to support the reopening of Ponds Forge but was backing UK Active and Sport England in lobbying for urgent funding from the government for the leisure industry.

Mr Snelling said SCT was working closely with all aquatics clubs and British Swimming to do everything they can to “minimise the disappointment” of those affected by Ponds Forge remaining closed by offering alternatives wherever they can.

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