Parish are gunning for Arsenal

Arsenal Football Club was this week accused of breaking the promise it made to involve itself in the local community when it built its training ground near Shenley.

Two years ago the Premiership club applied for planning permission from Hertsmere Borough Council to build its training facility at Bell Lane, London Colney. At the time Arsenal informed the council that it would become involved with the community and, in particular, develop links with local schools and clubs.

But, at a Shenley Parish Council meeting last week, members heard that, despite repeated invitations, the club had not sent any of its stars to visit the area.

The Mayor of Hertsmere, Bill Hogan, who is on the parish council, said: "I am very disappointed they did make promises that they would look after the schools and take part in events in the borough."

Arsenal this week claimed that it had fulfilled its promise, through initiatives organised by its ladies team, including weekly matches for girls at Boreham Wood FC.

Shenley Primary School has written to Arsenal several times to request a visit from a player since the opening of the training ground, in October 1999.

Their invitations were turned down, and one of the school's governors, Rosemary Gilligan, said this week that they had since stopped writing to the club.

"To those little kids a visit from one of these footballers would mean a great deal," she said.

The parish council asked Arsenal if it would become involved in a series of special Millennium events which were taking place around the village last year.

Parish clerk Malcolm Williamson said he did not get a response to his letter seeking either a cash grant or a representative to officially open one of the events.

In July, at Arsenal's match with Boreham Wood, Mr Hogan asked the club's manager, Arsene Wenger, if he would open a new borough council leisure centre in Bushey.

The council then received a letter from the club stating that Mr Wenger had many other commitments, and, in the end, he was not able to attend the ceremony.

An Arsenal spokesman said: "There is a big difference between asking a player to go to an event and developing close links with schools in the local community."

Arsenal Ladies is planning to expand its community activities to include junior school football tournaments for boys and girls in the Borehamwood and Radlett area.

The parish council agreed, at last week's meeting, to write to Arsenal to ask whether it would be willing to send players to visit local schools in the future.by MARK FOY

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