Harriers running out of time

IPSWICH Harriers, one of the oldest athletics clubs in the country, are fighting to stay alive.Chairman Iris Leigh admitted today: "We have a real crisis on our hands and we feel we are banging our heads against a brick wall."

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH Harriers, one of the oldest athletics clubs in the country, are fighting to stay alive.

Chairman Iris Leigh admitted today: "We have a real crisis on our hands and we feel we are banging our heads against a brick wall."

The club, founded in 1883, urgently needs to raise £20,000 to cover the cost of a new clubhouse in readiness for the start of the new season in April.

But attempts to fund the project through a £20-a-brick sponsorship plan have not triggered the hoped-for response.

Hundreds of letters have been distributed via members and the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, but donations have only trickled in.

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Mrs Leigh admitted: "We are working like mad to get this money together, but sadly the response has been poor so far. We are in total despair.

"But we simply won't allow this club to fold. Even if we have to pitch a tent in order to host meetings we'll do it."

The current clubhouse has come to the end of its lifespan and awaits demolition for health and safety reasons.

"At the moment we are working from a small corridor in Northgate Sports Centre. You could say we are in a bit of trouble."

Ironically, the Harriers' cash crisis comes at a time when the Northgate track has been upgraded to enable Ipswich to host top-level meetings.

Last season they were forced to travel away to all their meetings, but now the lack of a clubhouse has put the club under threat.

Mrs Leigh added: "We are trying our hardest to keep it going. You don't just let a club formed in 1883 fold, do you?

"We have more than 300 members, with a large majority being between the ages of 11 and 17 and we have always been a non-profit making organisation.

"We have planning permission for a new clubhouse at Northgate, we have the backing of both the school and the sports centre and we have volunteers standing by to help build it.

"But there's one thing missing – the money to make it happen – and it's all very frustrating."

Harriers have produced several international athletes in the past and Mrs Leigh said: "More than anything else we want to keep the club alive.

"Three of our boys – Sam Jacobs, Tom Sharland and Matt Barnes-Smith – are representing England in the cross country relay championships at under-20 level.

"Not even Ipswich Town can claim to have three England internationals at the moment."

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