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'A hidden gem no longer' - Sport centre falls on hard times

PUBLISHED: 14:30 06 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:00 09 September 2019

Sally McGrath, manager, in the restaurant at The Gallow Fakenham Sports Centre PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

Sally McGrath, manager, in the restaurant at The Gallow Fakenham Sports Centre PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

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A sport centre facing tough times has denied rumours it will close, but is open about the difficulties it is facing.

The entrance to The Gallow Fakenham Sports Centre PICTURE: Matthew FarmerThe entrance to The Gallow Fakenham Sports Centre PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

A newsletter for The Gallow Fakenham Sports Centre sparked rumours when it said an upcoming management meeting was to "explain the current financial situation of the centre, the appeal for donations and to outline proposals for a restructuring of the finances."

Manager Sally McGrath said the centre is not in dire need of help, but does need to think about its future. She said: "This place is a real hidden gem, but it can't afford to be hidden any longer.

"Like many businesses, we have struggled recently. We have always managed to make ends meet, but this year has been a real corker. We are owned by our members, so we have to tell them how it is."

"But because of how widespread our members are it has turned into a game of whispers. I keep thinking of the Mark Twain quote: 'Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated'."

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She believes the financial situation is down to a steady decrease in memberships, as existing members give them up to save money or are not replaced after they die. She said: "It has been happening gradually for a while, but at some point you take a step back and realise it."

The centre celebrates its 40th anniversary next year, and ideas to change the working of the club and raise money will be discussed at the meeting. Recently, new clubs such as a gentle seated exercise group have been brought in, and the first casino night will soon be held.

Mrs McGrath estimates 65pc of the club's members are retired. She said: "Anything which will bring people through the doors is a priority, because when they come in they are always shocked, and say 'I didn't know you had all this in here'.

"Our management committee are working their socks off to adapt to the new world. They have some ideas we will discuss soon.

"Because we aren't huge, the difference between comfortable and struggling is very small."

Mrs McGrath is worried the current Brexit situation could affect people's spending, and fluctuations in the national living wage raising costs for staff of the club and their suppliers.

She said: "The centre has to be sustainable, but hopefully we can convince people we will be here for the rest of our 99-year lease." Management will meet on September 17 to discuss the issues.

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