The shock closure of a popular Blackpool football centre has stunned coaches and parents of the hundreds of children who play there each week.
Junior football coaches say the closure of the DW Soccer Centre, on Vicarage Road, has caused ‘anarchy’ as clubs scramble to reschedule training sessions.
The South Shore facility, used by several teams during the winter months, is due to close on January 3 and staff have been told they will lose their jobs, The Gazette understands.
But parents and coaches say they were only made aware of the situation on Friday, with just two weeks to make alternative arrangements.
Neil Owen, academy coach at Preston North End and a former head of football at South Shore-based Spirit of Youth FC, said: “The shock closure, mid-way through the season, has caused anarchy.
“If they had honoured arrangements until the end of March, I think everyone would have been disappointed but we would have had time to deal with it.
“Now, the week before Christmas, everyone is scrambling.”
The company is run by Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan, who owns a chain of fitness centres and sports shops.
It is understood work to remove the equipment from the football centre will begin on January 4. However, the DW Fitness Centre, based in the same building, will remain open.
One member of staff, who is among five understood to be affected by the closure, said: “We get local football clubs who come and train here. They are very disappointed.
“We have still got a few people to tell.”
The Gazette understands the first staff learnt of the closure was on Thursday, although talks around another company moving into the building had been going on for weeks.
It is rumoured that Smyth’s Toys will be moving into the unit, although the company denied this.
The firm, which does not have an outlet on the Fylde coast, is currently advertising for a duty manager at its ‘Blackpool store’ but the exact location is not specified. The advert expires on December 31.
Despite this, a spokesman told The Gazette: “We are not currently aware of any stores opening in the Blackpool area.”
Mr Owen, whose junior team uses the centre for all age groups, said he only found out about the closure because of a ‘leak’, meaning customers would not have found out until after Christmas otherwise.
He added: “That’s the bit that has really rattled everybody.
“It has left many grass roots clubs in limbo because other places are all booked up.
“It’s the only facility of its kind in Blackpool.
“We have got a lot of kids who are going to have their football season interrupted. For the younger ones it is massive for them.”
Oliver Perkins, manager of Sporting Foxhall under-nines, said his team trains at the Soccer Centre every week during the winter.
He added: “We were planning on using it until the end of March.
“If I can’t get something sorted I’m going to have to cancel training.”
John Jones, of Mereside, takes his two sons to the centre to play football.
He said: “Every time I’ve gone there it has always been busy.
“It would be a shame if nobody puts up a bit of a fight to keep them.”
DW Sports, which runs the facility, did not respond to repeated requests for a comment either yesterday or on Monday.