Shock closure of arena leaves Leeds’ roller derby clubs homeless

Leeds Roller Dolls, pictured in red, have been based at Futsal since 2012. Picture: Jason Ruffell

Leeds Roller Dolls, pictured in red, have been based at Futsal since 2012. Picture: Jason Ruffell

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Two Leeds roller derby clubs have begun a desperate search for a new home after the shock closure of their venue.

Leeds Roller Dolls (LRD) and Aire Force One (AF1) say they were given just a days’ notice of the apparent closure of Morley’s Futsal Arena, where both clubs are based and train for hours each week.

Aire Force One, pictured in purple, have been based at Futsal since the team was founded in 2013. Picture: Jason Ruffell

Aire Force One, pictured in purple, have been based at Futsal since the team was founded in 2013. Picture: Jason Ruffell

Play Football Ltd took over the running of the venue in December when the then lease-holders Futsal Ltd went into administration.

No one from the company was available to speak to the YEP about the closure, which has left club members devastated.

Gemma Patterson, LRD skater and venues coordinator for both clubs, said they were aware of changes to part of the venue but there was “no mention of it closing”.

She said: “They were still taking bookings for big events later on in the year so we had no clue at all that it was going to shut. The impact is enormous - AF1 had a Team England player coming to provide specialist coaching which now can’t happen until a new venue is found.

“Leeds Roller Dolls’ Whip Its were about to start their 2016 season which now looks like it will have to be put on hold - including the Great Yorkshire Showdown which includes teams from across the county coming together for a tournament. We were due to have a junior league intake next week, junior intakes are always over subscribed and that too has had to be postponed. We’re at a complete loss.”

LRD, who were founded in 2007, have been based at the venue since 2012. AF1 joined them the following year when they were founded.

As well as hosting games, training sessions and bootcamps, the venue is used for a recreational skate night every Wednesday and is home to LRD’s junior league, for skaters aged between eight and 17.

LRD also hosted a sell-out game between then world champions Gotham Girls, from New York, and London Rollergirls, in 2014, which attracted over 1,100 fans to Leeds.

Now both clubs are desperately searching for a new venue.

LRD skater Lyndsay Burgan said: “Having trained and held games at the venue for the past four years, we are deeply saddened that we are now homeless. Between the two clubs there are over 90 members, some of whom have been skating for up to ten hours a week to play roller derby at the highest level.

“Futsal was also home to the popular recreational night Wednesday Skate, enjoyed by individuals and families from across the north, allowing us to share our love of skating outside of the roller derby community.”

Jamie Greenwood, skater and chair of AF1 said: “We are now searching for a new home – in the short term anywhere that we can train, in the longer term a venue that will be suitable for all training and hosting of games. The even longer term goal is to own our own venue.

“We are appealing urgently to anyone who can offer us a temporary home, help us find somewhere new to rent or who knows of funding opportunities that might help us purchase our own place. We were the first women’s and men’s roller derby teams in Leeds, our clubs have such a community feel to them - it would be such a shame for us to have to move out of the area or disband completely.”

Anyone who can help is asked to contact pr@leedsrollerdolls.co.uk

Pontus Jansson

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