When one thinks of a leisure or sports centre there’s a temptation to envisage the large, high profile centres such as XCel in Surrey and the Brentwood Centre in Essex. However, for many people their local sports centre is situated at the nearby secondary school. These dual use centres provide many grass roots clubs with the base for activity in a no-frills and cost-effective manner. They have been at the heart of community sport since the 1960s. Then they were operated by the local education authority but as times have changed they can now be run by private companies, the local sports trust or by an academy chain. This latter is the case at Great Cornard Sports Centre in Sudbury.
GCSC is on the campus of Thomas Gainsborough School which is part of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust. The centre became part of the trust’s operations when it moved from the LEA to the school. Neither the school nor the trust have any background in leisure management and wished us to undertake a management review or health check on the current operation.
We used our experience of similar reviews including our work with the Audit Commission to review operations. We found a centre with considerable local knowledge and firmly embedded in the local sporting community. We were able to make a series of recommendations to build on this sound base by widening its outreach to local residents and by improving its financial management.
Our recommendations are now being implemented.