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Historic Oxford sports and social club to close on 90th anniversary
OXFORD Sports and Social Club will close on its 90th anniversary after BMW announced it was taking back the site in Roman Way.
The decision also means Oxford United will be forced to find a new training ground.
A range of sports clubs based at the Cowley site, including Oxford Cricket Club, will also need to find new homes.
General manager Jenny O’Loughlin said: “The Oxford Sports and Social Club has taken the very difficult decision not to relocate to new premises and to cease trading when the lease ends in 2016.
“The current economic climate, along with falling membership, a change in social circumstances, and leisure patterns changing rapidly, has made it difficult to produce a robust, financially viable, business plan to move the club to new premises.”
The announcement follows years of negotiations between the club and BMW.
BMW bosses yesterday declined to say how the 24-acre site next to the quality and engineering centre would be used after April 2016 when the current lease expires.
The German car giant, which owns the land, had offered to build a new site on neighbouring Oxford City Council land as long ago as 2011, giving it the option for expansion.
But club officials decided higher costs associated with the lease of the land meant calling time.
Membership has dwindled from 20,000 in the 1970s to 1,000 today.
Club officials blame cheap alcohol in supermarkets, the smoking ban and competing leisure activities. Last year it made a loss of £3,000.
Ms O’Loughlin added: “Although progress over the last three years has seen a decline in the deficit in the accounts, the club is still not in a position of break even or profit. Even bringing in more users and generating additional income has not succeeded in making the club viable.
“BMW has been a good landlord to the club for a number of years and has worked closely in trying to resolve the clubs issues. However, the club will cease trading when the lease ends. Until then it is business as usual.”
The club was established in 1927 for the workforce of Pressed Steel which had been set up a year earlier to make car bodies for the neighbouring Morris Motors plant.
The club has paid a peppercorn rent to every new owner of the site, with £1 a year now going to BMW.
Trustee Roy Edney has been a member of the club since 1953 and is chairman of the 70-strong Oxford Bowls Club, which will also close.
Mr Edney, 81, from Headington said: “It is very sad but a sign of the economic times. A social club can’t compete with supermarkets on the price of beer. We are just going to have to make the most of it over the next three years.”
“BMW Group will continue to work with the club and to support it to ensure a smooth closure.”
Oxford United would not discuss potential locations for relocation of its training facilities.