A WHEELCHAIR basketball team are being forced to leave their home by rugby club Wasps.
Warwickshire Bears have practiced at Henley Sports and Community Club for the past ten years but are now having to leave after Coventry-based rugby club bought the 13-acre site to use as a training ground.
The former London-based Premiership club have owned Coventry City Football Club’s former stadium home the Ricoh Arena in Coventry since 2014 – after a deal with Coventry council.
Wasps have been temporarily training at Broadstreet Rugby Club in Binley, where it was said players were unhappy with facilities. A Wasps attempt to displace Coventry City’s prized youth academy and build a training ground at the Higgs centre in Coventry fell through in 2017.
Now Wasps have agreed a deal with WCG (formerly Warwickshire College Group) to buy the Henley-in-Arden sports centre site, subject to planning permission – where Warwickshire Bears wheelchair basketball play.
Tom Masterson, who founded Warwickshire Bears – which now has some 60 members including women and children – told the Observer: “We had no idea this was coming. I received an email just before they told the press. I’m devastated.
“We have paid our way, we don’t get cut-price rates because we are a wheelchair team. Last year we paid £10,000 in hall rent.
“I still have not heard a word from Wasps.”
The club has been told they can use the sports facilities at Leamington College but, while grateful, Tom added the venue was ‘far from ideal’.
He is also concerned about the dated facilities, that players would have to use a side entrance due to lack of disabled access, and that toilets and showers were not currently in the sports building.
Tom added: “We have 15 children and the rest of the team is mainly disabled men and women who need to access these facilities easily.
“We just have to keep this team going. Losing the club is my biggest fear.
“We tried so hard to get the kids we have involved. It changes their lives. It gives them something to be proud of.
“Not a lot of disabled children have something to take part in, often they can’t do PE at school or other sports, but they come here and get involved and make new friends.”
But WCG says it will be making the necessary changes at Leamington College to facilitate the basketball players.
A spokesman told the Observer: “We met with Bears founder Tom Masterson and treasurer Dan Smith and have offered alternate venues at a couple of our sites.
“They have opted for our Leamington site with some conditions that were confirmed by email and that we are in agreement with, so we are delighted to be able to support the Bears going forward.
“We now have to undertake some work on the venue to accommodate them – including changing room and storage – and are just working out exact timings for this and when they will move across.”