Community rally to help create a new home for Bognor

January 14, 2021 | by Matt Halfpenny


A Southern Counties club can look forward to marking its centenary after its local community has rallied around to help it secure a new home and brighter future.

Bognor Regis ABC was unable to return to the premises they used for eight years last July following the first Coronavirus lockdown because its landlord needed to rent out the space at full cost to recoup losses due to Covid-19 closures.

While it left the South Coast club of 98 years standing temporarily homeless, plans have quickly been put in place to remedy that situation.

The club had already been seeking to move to a more permanent home in a large space on the first floor of the Plumbase Centre in North Bersted.

But events have led to an acceleration in that agreement coming into force, with a 10-year lease on a peppercorn rent set to be signed once lockdown comes to an end.

Plumbase manager Nigel Humphrey has also kindly committed to providing new washroom furniture and new radiators to heat the facility during the winter months.

Bognor Rotary has agreed to put forward a significant sum of money, as has Reynolds of Bognor Regis, while donations from Maverick Stars Trust and Malcolm Ridley have also been gratefully received.

Falcon Homes, Cathedral Signs, T and E Electrical, Bradley Electrical, Covers of Bognor, Kevin Welling (plumber), Coastal Alarms, Clinton Carpets, Strongdor and Southern Recycling are among other local businesses to also pledge their support in one way or another.

This income and manpower has not only allow the club to overcome unexpected obstacles such as loose wiring in the suspended ceiling above the 2,200 sq ft room to be used, but also purchase vital equipment such as punchbags, gloves and protective head gear, as well as a first boxing ring.

Lead club coach, secretary and fundraiser Paul Mason has been overwhelmed by the generosity of both businesses and individuals in the area and said: “It’s fantastic to see the way that so many people have come together to refuse to allow one of the oldest amateur boxing clubs in the country to die.

“It’s amazing what has happened in the last few months after there was a point where the future of the club was looking very uncertain. The community hasn’t just helped improve the club, they have saved its life.

“The rotary club say this is the biggest community project that has ever happened in Bognor and it gives us the certainty – that we have never really had – to take the club on from strength to strength. We have never had a home to call our own before.

“We can have more sessions, more classes and bigger groups coming in, after Covid, because there will be that much more space available. Having the ongoing support to make it a family club – everyone has said they want to carry on helping out – means so much.”

Mason has been assisted in his efforts by the long-serving Dave Larner – who has been at the club 64 years as man and boy – and Alan Wise, as well as the wider coaching team, which now numbers seven.

They are now looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labour when boxing is permitted to start up once again.

Mason added: “For a lot of clubs they may find there is a fall-off in numbers because of Coronavirus, but because of what’s been happening here, I think, if anything, it’s made our young boxers even more hungry for it when the lockdown ends.

“Like many clubs, we do our best to be an inclusive club and we don’t split up children into different groups. We may give them extra support within their group, but they are very much part of it.

“We have kids with autism, ADHD and Tourettes, but when they come through our doors, they get really involved and enjoy it. I know one of the dads got quite emotional at seeing the positive change he saw for the time that his youngster was in the boxing club.

“The lease is ready to sign, but Plumbase have, very kindly, allowed us to delay that until we can open up the gym after the lockdown and get some use out of it.

“When the government allow clubs to open again, then we hope that all the work will be finished and we will be ready to go. We’ll then look forward to having opened days for those who have helped and the general public when restrictions have eased.”

England Boxing’s Club Support Officer for Southern Counties, Avoen Perryman, has been working closely with Bognor in a bid to find a workable long-term solution and is delighted that the club’s future now looks much brighter.

He said: “I am so pleased that we’ve been able to advise and guide the club into a situation where it has a low-cost rent, on a long-term lease that will be eligible to apply for future capital funding if ever it needs it.

“In essence, it’s now a really good situation for any club to be in, and I am so happy for them.

“In addition to helping the club access Maverick Stars Trust funding, and some further in-kind support thanks to VIP Boxing Equipment, I’ve also applied to three other Charitable Trusts on the club’s behalf, which we should hear back from by early February.

“These grants should help finish the club’s relocation and finalise their new gym for years to come.  Paul and his team have worked tirelessly to this end and though these projects are never easy, and take many hours of work, he has been a driving force behind this new gym.”

Note: some pics may be pre COVID-19.

For more information on Bognor, go to its Facebook page.