Rugby club booting out squash players to expand changing facilities

Henry Ingall

Henley Ingall started the petition after Harpenden Rugby Football Club served a notice to quit on Harpenden Squash Club, requiring it to vacate its premises in April. - Credit: Supplied

A 10-year-old boy has launched a petition to save his squash club from being evicted from its current premises in Harpenden. 

Henley Ingall started the petition after Harpenden Rugby Football Club served a notice to quit on Harpenden Squash Club, requiring it to vacate its premises in April.

He has also set up a Facebook page and created T-shirts and posters in order to draw attention to their plight, with the aim of gaining support and raising funds to halt the eviction and to look at other opportunities to save the sport in Harpenden and the surrounding communities.

As well as being a member of the club's U11 team, he also plays football, cricket, rugby, ping-pong and dozens of other sports, but squash is one of his favourites.

His dad Robert said: "In short, Henley can’t understand why one club wants to get rid of the other when they both have been ‘friends’ for so long. He’s also annoyed that nobody asked any kids what they thought - especially as the club’s junior program is so robust and makes money.

"He gets very frustrated with adults that don’t listen to children!"

The squash club has 250 individual, family and junior members, who are fighting to quash the eviction and save its 53 years’ legacy after discussions with HRFC failed to resolve the situation.

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The club which is entirely run by volunteers, has a wide range of players and ages playing both squash and racketball. It is one of the largest clubs in Hertfordshire and is renowned country-wide for grass root and top-level squash. It has several England Masters International players as members and a number of current Junior County Champions.

Club chair Eamonn Price said: "We were completely shocked and surprised by HFRC’s action. It leaves the squash club with few options to offer continuing activity."

HRFC intends to convert all three of the current squash club's courts into additional rugby changing rooms and catering facilities for functions and events in its new marquee. HRFC is currently seeking planning permission for this marquee, which would provide function space for up to 250 people.

Darren Francey, chairman of Harpenden Rugby Football Club, explained why they had taken the decision to evict the squash club: "Over the last five years, membership has steadily increased across the club, but particularly in the Minis, Juniors and Ladies sections.  Add to this our thriving DisAbility section, and we have seen playing membership grow from 636 to 983.  During this period we have also seen a clear drive across rugby, to improve and, in our case, further enhance all safeguarding standards.   

"We have staggered our training/match times across the sections, and whilst this has helped reduce parking and facility difficulties, we are still faced with the same key issue: We cannot provide changing facilities across the sections to meet safeguarding and safety standards without considerable compromise."

Henley's petition can be found at change.org/HelpHenleySaveOurSquash