Steve Hodkinson is a Sale resident and avid sports enthusiast. Until November 2006, he was Pro-Vice Chancellor at Brunel University, taking responsibility for sport and its links to the community and National Governing Bodies. He was then part of Sport England’s London Regional Sports Board.
As Vice Chair of the Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust in West London, Steve played an important role in the early planning of Brentford FC’s new community stadium, with sports, leisure, and community at its heart.
Steve is now Vice President of Street Games, a charity focused on making sport accessible to disadvantaged communities.
We had a chat with Steve about his hopes for a potential community sports village at Crossford Bridge, and why it’s so important to get involved in the consultation process…
What do you think is key to creating a true community hub that delivers benefits for local people?
For me, the key lies in setting community objectives and then following them through in action plans and evaluating the delivery. Accessibility for all should be at the heart of a hub’s mission to optimise its contribution to health, wellbeing and community cohesion.
How can sport and leisure facilities play a role in bringing communities together?
Sport and physical activity can help to join people from all backgrounds, especially when ‘fun, fitness, and friendship’ drive their participation. Of course, there is room for competitive sport but that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so creating a space where members of the community can do sport or an activity together is something a community hub should strive to achieve too.
One of the striking things from emerging studies of young people during lockdown is the reduction in the time they devote to physical activity when it became something they had to do on their own. Being active on your own at home is not the same as being with others in a welcoming external environment. Daily exercise on a yoga mat has not been the same for me as Wednesday afternoons at the seniors’ yoga class and Fridays at veterans’ tennis. Sport brings people together in a shared and positive experience, so it’s got to be good for the community!
What would you like to see included as part of a potential community sports village at Crossford Bridge?
As it’s still an early stage, there’s scope to create something that doesn’t currently exist in Sale. I think a priority has to be securing the futures of the sporting groups who use the site already, and it would be great to see some space for the people who currently use the green space at Crossford Bridge for jogging, walking, cycling, and other casual activity. It would also be good to ensure that the site will be open to the public as it is now.
Improved facilities for sports at junior level would be great, such as multi-purpose pitches for football and rugby, and I would really like to see a good offering of facilities accessible to people with disabilities. For the sports village to be truly inclusive, there has to be a broad range of facilities for sports and other less demanding activity available.
At the moment, the only thing that seems certain in any future proposals is a community stadium, so there’s a great opportunity to really shape a place that serves the needs of the local community.
What impact do you think having Sale Sharks back in Sale could have on the local area?
Having Sale Sharks in Trafford would certainly be a boost to the local economy in employment and revenue terms, and I’m sure that supporters would welcome not having to travel to the AJ Bell. A true ‘community stadium’, through the Sharks Community Trust, could provide opportunities for local organisations, clubs and charities to access facilities off-season and perhaps have space for a ‘learners’ area to provide educational enhancement for targeted groups. The social value added by stadium development has been an important consideration in some stadia developments in residential areas.
I would hope that a new stadium development would come with appropriate and extensive strategies to mitigate issues relating to transport, nearby residential properties and large crowds on match-days.
What would your advice be to local people to make sure their voices are heard during the consultation process?
So far in this Phase 1 consultation, I’ve seen local people seriously engaging with the process. It’s really important that everyone in the community uses the ongoing consultation not only to voice concerns, but also as a real chance to shape what Crossford Bridge could look like in the future.
It is a difficult time for local authorities to invest in the full upkeep of all the public open spaces, football pitches, leisure centres etc. This is an opportunity to have a real influence on the content of proposals that could improve things for our open spaces and contribute to our health and well-being.