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West Ham United FC set to kick out grass roots football club

Alice Roberts
By Alice Roberts
19th October 2023

West Ham United Football Club is bidding to kick out a 600-member strong grass roots football club, leaving locals fuming

After waiting patiently for Redbridge Council to re-issue their lease for Oakfields Sport Ground, home to their club for the 20 years, Bealonians grass roots football club were recently told by the council that the council had instead accepted a bid from West Ham United Football Club to build their Academy on the site – leaving ‘Beals’ with no home and nowhere to go.

We originally wrote about this case in April 2022 when rumours were abounding that West Ham might be looking into taking over the public playing fields at Oakfields.

Why would the council do this? Why would West Ham United think it in any way appropriate to kick out such an important, established local club? Why would Redbridge Council feel it’s appropriate to kick out a valuable community sports club in favour of accommodating an exclusive football academy which is part of a wealthy business? We can speculate. West Ham’s Academy already has a home – it is currently located at Little Heath near Billet Road. It’s a very nice site with a large number of very nice pitches. Why would they want to move? It makes no sense. The Little Heath site is next to a bigger site which is set to be developed. Perhaps the council would like the Little Heath site as part of that scheme, perhaps because it would enable road access to the main development site? Who knows. Neither party has explained why they feel this move is a good idea. They simply say that West Ham put in a bid, during the tender process, and they came out as the preferred bidder.

Anyway, what we do know is the council has now issued a statutory notice – something they have to do legally – when selling off public assets. This is called a Notice Under Section 123 (2A) Local Government Act 1972, Disposal of Open Space. They have advertised their intention to enter into a long leasehold agreement for the land and pavilion at Oakfield Playing Fields, Forest Row, Barkingside

As part of this notice they are required to ask if anyone has any comments. We certainly do. This is what we have said:

We strongly object to the Council’s proposal to lease Oakfield Playing Fields to West Ham United Football Club, to accommodate their academy, on the following basis:

  • It means grass roots, community club Bealonians’ will be replaced by a private business (West Ham United Academy). This will prevent public enjoyment of the site and its Jack Carter Pavilion.
  • We simply do not accept that the bid from West Ham can have been assessed as having more merit than the bid from an established grass-roots club – given the devastating impact it will have on the community services they provide. If this goes ahead, local people, families and aspiring young footballers will be unable to access this essential community sporting facility, which will instead be used by a small group of individuals to support the commercial interests of a private business.
  • It would leave grassroots club Bealonians FC and its 29 youth teams, including two girls teams and ten adult men’s teams, without a place big enough in Redbridge to relocate to. It has already been shown at the Local Plan Examination in Public, as stated by Planning Inspectors, that there are no suitable alternative sites to relocate the clubs at Oakfields.
  • The playing fields and Jack Carter Pavilion are also currently used by a number of cricket clubs as well as the Hainault & Chigwell Muslim Association and a number of other local groups who hire the pavilion for functions – contributing to community cohesion and providing opportunity for recreational sport and social events. All of this will be lost to the community.
    The lease should clearly go to Bealonians as fitting the bid criteria much more closely, on any reasonable judgment.

We urge the council and indeed West Ham United to abandon this move – and leave Oakfield Sports Ground to the community clubs which are so important to sports in East London and Essex and to social and community cohesion in the borough of Redbridge.

Bealonian 8ths