Fears for the future of hockey in Bognor Regis

Hockey players fear their sport could be wiped out in Bognor Regis.

They are concerned the next few months will see the final games played in the town because of a lack of pitches.

They claim the pitch which they are entitled to use at the Arun Leisure Centre is unplayable.

And the pitch they play on at The Arena sports centre is wearing out with no guarantee a suitable replacement will be installed.

Rachael McCartain, the secretary and treasurer of Middleton and Bognor Hockey Club, said: “If the pitch at the Arun Leisure Centre is not playable until 2013 and a 3G pitch, which we can’t use, is put in at The Arena we will have nowhere to play.

“We will be exterminated as a sport in Bognor, which would be dreadful.

“Hockey has been played in Bognor for more than a hundred years but I don’t know how likely it is we will be playing next winter.”

Hockey is played in the town through Middleton and Bognor Club, with some 80 men and women players, and the 20-strong Bognor Town Ladies.

Middleton and Bognor began to play on an all-weather pitch at the joint county and district council facility of the Arun Leisure Centre in 1993 after they secured £250,000 towards its installation.

This gave them priority to use it for 20 years. Removal of the pitch before then would see the club entitled to compensation.

But Mrs McCartain said the pitch had been unplayable for some two seasons. It was filthy, littered with glass, had an unsafe surface and a touchline was wobbly.

The club had overcome the problem by joining Bognor Town Ladies at The Arena on The Regis School campus where they have played and held weekly coaching sessions since the Westloats Lane centre opened.

But its all-weather pitch needs replacing. Only a series of repairs required by county hockey officials have kept it in action this season.

It was feared by the players, Mrs McCartain said, a cheaper rubber crumb replacement pitch would be installed, which would be unsuitable for hockey, rather than a costlier and usable sand-based pitch.

She said she also feared the Arun Leisure Centre’s operator, Inspire Leisure, would wait until the club’s agreement expired in 2013 and replace its pitch with one suitable for football because it was a more lucrative sport to host and its pitches were cheaper.

Mark Betts, The Regis School’s business and community manager, said it planned to install a new all-weather pitch this summer.

“We are weighing up which pitch to go for and it will be a decision for the school’s governing body,” he said.