Boxing clubs, so often a pillar in many communities, have been seeing those communities pay something back to help them keep up the fight during the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, writes Tom Howe.
To assist struggling clubs survive the implications of lockdown, England Boxing have launched a scheme dubbed #KOCOVID19, which appeals to the public to give as much as they can to help keep their local institution running after the restrictions come to an end.
Having been forced to close their doors until further notice, more than 80 clubs have joined the campaign, with the pandemic putting a tremendous financial strain on a number of them.
One such club is Barnstaple-based Barum Boxing Club, whose secretary, Laura Aldous, told The Independent: “Throughout the years we have taken pride in creating the best club for boxers and the community. We stop at nothing to give the very best opportunities, encouraging sportsmanship, honesty, integrity, discipline, equality, empathy and valour.
“In the short time that we have been open we have had boxers compete all over the country. We also have a very strong female squad coming through. This is something we and England Boxing actively encourage.
“My son has been training at the club for nearly two years now. He has come on immensely and absolutely loves the sport. As a family of four, we pretty much spend most of our time at the club and it is like a family to us. My husband is a coach there and I have recently become the club secretary.
“We are experiencing challenging times that are affecting many people’s health, social lives and livelihoods. At this stage there is great uncertainty around the impact that Covid-19 will have on Barum. We still need to cover our overheads but with little to no income to do so. This is why we decided to join #KOCOVID19.”
Aldous continued: “By doing this we have appealed to members of our club and community to donate whatever they can to help ensure that, when we as a nation have knocked out Covid-19, there is still an amateur boxing club in Barnstaple to return to. Our current running total is £3,422 which is absolutely amazing and we appreciate every penny that has been donated.
“A few of our members have done their own fundraising which they have then donated to our pot. For instance, one member is a tattooist so he raffled off tickets to win a day’s session with him and another member ran a full marathon around his garden. Both raised around £600 each for our club.
“The club has been closed since March 16 and, at present, we are still unsure when we will be able to return properly. We just have to sit tight and wait for the guidelines to be released for boxing clubs and gyms. Our head coach has been doing a fantastic job of keeping in touch with the Barum team, committee and members through phone calls, messages and social media.
“He has recently been using Zoom to train some of our members which has been a great success. As a club we can’t wait to get back to training and normality but know the priority right now is for all of us to stay safe and healthy.”
Another such club is Chard, Ilminster and District, who have seen their target of raising £1,000 smashed via a campaign launched on the popular crowdfunding platform, Just Giving, whilst also gratefully benefiting from other charitable sources.
Their coach, Keith Roberts, told The Independent: “On average we have 30 or 40 kids a week and five coaches who are all volunteers. Out of the five, two of us are professional coaches as we have got one pro boxer at the club, my son Paul, who has boxed for us since the age of 11. He was actually due a fight last week against Martin Hillman for the Southern Area bantamweight title.
“Our rent is nearly £900 a month and then you have other bills like your gas and electric. We try to be self-sufficient as much as we can. All our money came from subs and, because we were so busy, we were able to generate all that rent. Now, we have got to replace things like old gloves because you don’t know what is in them. I have been taking stuff home to wash and sanitize. When we open we want to be as safe as possible.
“We have never asked for anything but that is the beauty of it. People knew that when we did ask, we actually needed it. The Just Giving page has done unbelievably well. It is pretty overwhelming really. We were in the running for money from the Tesco Community Fund prior to the lockdown. They couldn’t complete the three month timeframe so split the money between three of us meaning we got over £1,000 there as well.
“We have asked Sport England for some assistance too. They looked at our case and saw the success of the club over the last few years. We have had kids that had problems and turned their lives around, as well as quite a few champions. They have agreed to pay all our expenses up to £6,000 which should last us until August or September. With that coming in, we are safe really.”
For further information on #KOCOVID19, including details of how to donate and which clubs are involved, visit www.englandboxing .org.