Sports Council England Declare a Resounding NO to Hackney Marshes Proposals!

Below is the text of the letter that Sports England sent to Hackney Council on 11 April 2013 declaring their united opposition to the Council’s proposals for Hackney Marshes:

3rd Floor, Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London WC1B 4SE


Creating a sporting habit for life

Mr I Holland

Head of Leisure & Green Spaces

London Borough of Hackney

Hackney Service Centre

1 Hillman Street

London E8 1DY

Dear Ian,

Hackney Marshes – Public Consultation

Thank-you for your letter and opportunity to respond to the Council on this important public consultation.

Having considered the contents of your letter and the summary of the Council’s proposals, Sport England and the relevant National Governing Bodies of Sport (NGBs) are strongly opposed to the plans to hold major events on Hackney Marshes.

Sport England, The Football Association (FA), the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have jointly invested significant amounts of public funding in the re-development of Hackney Marshes to ensure it continues as a key
sporting site for pitch sports in London. The annual holding of major events is considered a huge risk to the quality and sustainability of the sports pitches and the clubs that use the facilities on a regular basis, threatening the increases in participation that we are all trying
to deliver.

The proposals to hold regular major events on Hackney Marshes were not part of your strategic plans (business and sports development) that Sport England and the NGBs took
into consideration with our investment into the site and we consider the new plans are a
significant risk to the delivery of community sports participation. Access and use of the pitches during the sporting seasons and the recovery periods for the pitches are of particular concern.

We have set out a sport-by sport summary of the objections to the Council’s proposals and the NGB views are fully supported by Sport England:-


The Football Association (The FA) is strongly opposed to any large scale public events on the Hackney Marshes. The FA has indicated both verbally and in writing (since April 2010) that having provided significant investment on the Marshes, both The FA and Football
Foundation (FF) would be opposed to any event(s) that would place the integrity of the pitches at risk.

Unfortunately last year’s festival resulted in significant damage to pitches which in turn, has led to severe disruption for those seeking to enjoy facilities on the Marshes. In total 23 pitches were out of use at the start of the season (which had to be delayed) displacing
teams to Mabley Green, Daubeney Fields and Hackney Downs Fields. Currently, 9 pitches are out of use and will remain closed for the remainder of this season. This situation has resulted in new teams being turned away by the local leagues due to a lack
of available pitches.

This experience has led The FA and The Football Foundation to the conclusion that similar events on the site would significantly harm the wider sporting ambitions on the site. Given that damage to pitches was irreparable in the short-term following just one event, it must be assumed that regular large scale events would cause continuous extensive damage. This, coupled with the lack of any effective measures available to the Council to adequately protect the pitches places the sporting legacy of the site at significant risk.


The ECB is deeply concerned with the plans for future concerts on Hackney Marshes and the impact it will have on cricket at the site. It will have a significant impact on the users if the facilities are out of use for a number of weeks each year for hosting events and the
subsequent reinstatement works. There are no other local facilities that can meet the displaced users as there is currently a large under provision of cricket facilities in the area.

There is no indication as to the size or scale of the proposed events but the potential impact to Cricket, which is a summer sport, stands the most risk of being affected. The development of the Last Man Stands league which is played on the three artificial pitches
on the site and the grass wicket for midweek and Saturday/Sunday play would be severely compromised.

The BBC Radio 1 event in 2012 had a huge impact on the site. The three artificial cricket pitches were destroyed and had to be re-instated by Council at a cost in the region of £30,000. More importantly, no cricket was possible on the site for 6 weeks and the fine turf outfield was compromised by the number of trodden in bottle tops that remained after the clean-up. In excess of 30 games of cricket were lost.

Rugby Union

The RFU has worked in partnership with LB Hackney for the last five years to support the development of a sustainable rugby union club and playing programme on Hackney Marshes.

The delivery of the Radio One event has demonstrated a real risk to the continued sustainability of rugby union on the Marshes and any future proposals are strongly resisted by both Old Streetonians RFC and the RFU.

In 2010 a grant of £99,500 was awarded to assist with the development of the Hackney Marshes Centre. The club was successfully relocated from the East Marsh following
development linked to the 2012 Olympic Games. Old Streetonians RFC now play on three pitches at the main Hackney Marshes site. Old Streetonians have entered into a Community Use Agreement for the site which clearly articulates the need for pitch use. As
a result of facility investment, club membership continues to grow. The club is also working to support the development of Shoreditch Sharks who provide a local youth rugby programme with the ultimate aim of them locating onto the same site and providing
the club with a youth and junior section.

The Hackney Marshes site is also utilised by Millwall RFC who access pitches for matches when they experience over capacity at their existing Millwall Park and Victoria Park sites.

With the forthcoming Rugby World Cup in 2015 the RFU is committed to strengthening its member clubs and developing rugby in the local communities that surround them. Clubs
such as Old Streetonians are crucial to this vision.

The RFU has firm evidence from experiences in 2012 that cause concern. On 13 June 2012 the Radio One event construction commenced resulting in large scale damage to the pitches. With the club’s season commencing on 1st September, they were forced to
play all matches away from home until 13 October. All three pitches were not open for use until the 11 November. The potential loss of a third of the rugby season has the potential to cause a terminal effect to the club’s sustainability and neutralise the strong partnerships
and improved facilities that have been delivered to date.

The RFU wants to maximise the potential of the site with the forthcoming Rugby World Cup to grow the game in the local community and seeks a resolution that allows these
strong foundations the chance to grow and develop a true rugby legacy for the next generation. Similar events to that of the Radio One concert threaten the sustainability of rugby union on the Marshes.

I trust that this clearly explains our joint position and we look forward to discussing this in further detail at the next strategic funders meeting on 25 April 2013.

Yours Sincerely,

Charles Johnston

Property Director

Mike Gatting

Managing Director, Cricket Partnerships

Sport England England & Wales Cricket Board

Alex Horne

General Secretary

Steve Grainger

Rugby Development Director

The Football Association

Rugby Football Union

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1 Response to Sports Council England Declare a Resounding NO to Hackney Marshes Proposals!

  1. Tony Pretty says:

    Mr Holland
    The LCSYFL responded as one and if not the largest Saturday Youth League affiliated to the LFA and wrote in support of Hackney Marshes not being used for major events, that in the past had prevented the start of the Youth Football Season.

    The LCSYFL is concerned and understand that the Hackney Football Development Team have now put out a tender for an organisation to run a Saturday Youth Football League at Hackney Marshes, The London County Saturday Youth Football League operates out of the Hackney Marshes and provides a Saturday Youth League, affiliated to the LFA, for the Hackney and North London Clubs, as the League was approached by the Football Development Officer of Hackney and the LFA Football Development Officer, .as the Hackney Development Team were unable to provide a successful youth football league. In addition the League attends the Hackney-GLL League & Users Forum so as to work closely with the other organisations to ensure the long-term development of Saturday Youth Football at Hackney Marshes.

    The LCSYFL has requested, through the LFA, that their Member Clubs are not approached to join a new Saturday Youth League run or financed via the Hackney Football Development Team but they be asked to support the LCSYFL to continue to develop youth football at Hackney Marshes for the local youth teams

    Yours in Sport
    Tony Pretty
    Hon League Secretary .

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