Local sport boost as Armchair Club gains charitable status

Charlotte Henshaw - a pasr Armchair Club beneficiary.
Charlotte Henshaw - a pasr Armchair Club beneficiary.

A Mansfield group that has financially supported talented sportsmen and women for more than 30 years has taken another major step forward in what could be a game-changer for local amateur sport.

The Armchair Club - a group of 13 businessmen - has set up the Armchair Club Sports Foundation Trust, which has now gained charitable status in a bid to increase funding for amateur sport in the area.

The club backs individuals and groups, particularly young people, and has paid out around £200,000 since 1982, mainly raised at three events each year - a Question Of Sport evening in March, a golf day in July and a sporting dinner in October.

Among its hundreds of beneficiaries have been double Olympic Games gold medal swimmer Rebecca Adlington, top international golfer Oliver Wilson, county cricketer Paul Franks, Olympic badminton star Chris Adcock, Commonwealth Games runner Stephen Lisgo, world sidecar champions Ben and Tom Birchall and Paralympic swimmers Charlotte Henshaw and Sam and Ollie Hynd, who were all supported long before they became famous for their achievements.

The club has also backed many sporting clubs and organisations.

Now it hopes the foundation’s charitable status will boost funds further.

The foundation is encouraging people undertaking charity fundraising events and being sponsored through websites like JustGiving to make the foundation their nominated cause.

Having charitable status will also mean that people wanting to make bequests or to make donations can do so to the foundation.

Money raised would then be passed on to sportspeople and groups in the area through the Armchair Club Sports Foundation Trust.

A spokesman said: “Many people take part in a variety of sporting challenges every year to raise thousands of pounds for charities and good causes.

“A lot of this is done through online support and we hope that the foundation, which has charitable status, will attract support from people running the likes of marathons and half-marathons, for example.

“Also, people often want to donate to a charity. The Armchair Club Sports Foundation Trust makes it possible for them to donate to a charity and support local sport.”

The foundation aims to back community involvement in amateur sport through funding and assisting in the provision of facilities, equipment and support that will encourage the development of sport and encourage young people to participate.

It will also continue the club’s ethos to see sport grow and flourish in the Mansfield area and to enable people of all ages and ability to take part and enjoy life through sport.

While the foundation will make it possible for people wanting to donate to a registered charity to back local sport, the Armchair Club itself will continue its regular fundraising work.

For more information on the Armchair Club, go to www.armchairclub.org

Three annual fundraising events start in March with the Question of Sport-style evening, involving teams from local businesses competing against each other in a format similar to the hit BBC TV show.

Previous winners have included Andrew Saunders Insurance, David Blount Estate Agents, NatWest, Chad and Stopfords Associates.

This year’s quiz night is at the Oakham Suite, Nottingham Road, Mansfield, on 2nd March from 7.30pm.

Tickets are available by calling Elaine at John Sankey’s office, telephone 01623 627247 or e-mail enquiries@johnsankey.com

The golf day takes place in July and this year will be at Coxmoor Golf Club.

The event on 3rd July will be a Stableford competition featuring teams of four and including competitions for putting, nearest the pin, longest drive, straightest drive, hidden holes and beat the pro.

It is the second golf day after the success of last year’s event and will now be an annual fixture on the club’s sporting calendar.

To take part, contact Bill Taylor for an application form, e-mail williamtaylor46@talknet.net or call 01623 640362 / 07779 801511.

The sporting dinner, this year on 12th October at the Oakham Suite, always features a famous sports star from the past or present and a comedian.

A year ago a new fundraising venture was launched, the 100 Friends of the Armchair Club.

For just £25 a year, people are entered into a monthly prize draw. New members are welcome, go to www.armchairclub.org for details.

As well as fundraising, the club is also heavily involved in the annual celebration of Mansfield’s sportsmen and women.

It helps organise Mansfield’s Sports Recognition Awards with Mansfield District Council and the Chad.

Last year this featured 13 awards - 11 nominated by the public - handed out at a glittering presentation evening at the John Fretwell Centre, Sookholme.

Plans are already under way for this year’s celebration on 7th December.

In was back in 1982 when six local businessmen got together to launch the Armchair Club.

Since then their number has grown to 13, but the volunteers’ aim remains the same, to promote sporting activity in the Mansfield area through an easily accessible and sensibly-controlled financial support base.

The members give up their own time to ensure the continuing success of the club, which has no formal structure.

There is no chairman, secretary or treasurer, the workload is simply shared between the members.

They meet regularly to organise their annual events and to consider requests for financial support from individuals and organisations.

A spokesman said: “We work hard at supporting those who help themselves, usually with a bias towards young people making their way in an increasingly competitive sporting world.”

Over the past 32 years, the Armchair Club has backed hundreds of individual sportsmen and women and many sporting clubs and organisations.

The sports covered have included athletics, basketball, canoeing, cricket, cycling, football, golf, gymnastics, ice skating, martial arts, motorsport, rugby, snowboarding, swimming, table tennis and tennis,

Money has been used, for example, to cover individuals’ training costs or to buy a club or league new equipment - and the club has awarded money to both able-bodied and disabled sportsmen and women.

Some of the beneficiaries have gone on to world fame and success, such as double Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington, who starred in the 2008 games in Beijing with two golds and then won two bronze medals in the London Olympics four years later.

Four years earlier 800m runner Ricky Soos reached the Olympic Games semi-finals four years after being backed by the club.

Others who have reached national and international success include:

Chris Adcock (badminton), Birchall Brothers Ben and Tom (sidecar racing), Paul Franks (cricket), Charlotte Henshaw (swimming), Sam and Olly Hynd (swimming), Stephen Lisgo (athletics), Mike Newell (cricket) and Oliver Wilson (golf).