Leader visits borough’s venues to prepare sport strategy

Cllr Ross Garrod with Tooting & Mitcham United FC Chief Executive, Jackie Watkins, at the club’s Imperial Fields ground

Merton Council Leader Ross Garrod has been visiting the borough’s sports clubs after the council confirmed its first-ever dedicated Cabinet role to improving sports development.

In a series of visits, Cllr Garrod met with AFC Wimbledon Chairman Mick Buckley, Tooting & Mitcham United FC (TMU-FC) Chief Executive Jackie Watkins, and All England Lawn Tennis Club’s CEO Sally Bolton, as the borough begins exploring the future of sports in Merton.

Among the issues discussed during the visit to the Imperial Fields stadium was the launch of new vocational skills courses for academy players at TMU-FC.

Councillor Caroline Cooper-Marbiah has been appointed at the council to lead on sports improvement in the borough as part of her role as Cabinet Member for Sports & Heritage.

Cllr Garrod meets AFC Wimbledon Chairman Mick Buckley

Cllr Garrod said: “We have an amazing sporting pedigree in Merton. Hosting the world’s most famous tennis tournament shines a global light on us and is a huge privilege for the borough, but we also want to highlight to people that Merton has so much more to offer.

“In Tooting & Mitcham United FC and AFC Wimbledon, we have two clubs that showcase everything good about local sport and are deeply embedded in their communities. TMU-FC is at the heart of the Mitcham community, and AFC, as we all know, is the greatest story in football.

“On top of that we have just welcomed professional rugby to the borough with the arrival of the London Broncos, and we have the oldest cricket ground in the country in Mitcham.

“We also have the Mitcham Saints BMX club, who compete on a council-built track in Eastfields and are sending riders to the world championships in Nantes in July.

“All this creates a potentially powerful platform for youth sports in the borough, as well as creating a bigger voice for sport in Merton.

“We are clear that we need to get the basics right – including cleaner streets. But we also have to be ambitious for the borough, and I’m keen to explore what more we can do to build a sporting legacy for the next generation.”

The Cabinet will hold its first meeting on June 27 at 7.15pm at Merton Civic Centre, when new priorities will be proposed for the next four years.