Council to pay Chelsea FC to promote Sutton Life Centre
Sutton Council is set to pay £59,000 a year to one of the richest football clubs in the world to try and attract visitors to the Sutton Life Centre.
Chelsea, whose owner Roman Abramovich is worth an estimated £11 billion, will have a base in the £8 million centre if plans are approved at a meeting tonight. (Thursday.
The council will pay the Champions League winners, who are seventh richest in the world and thought to be worth £473 million, £59,000 to "increase engagement levels and profile for the Sutton Life Centre".
The figure, which is equivalent to what Chelsea's captain John Terry is paid for two days' work, will also fork out for a borough wide healthy eating programme for schools as well as a social inclusion programme, a plan to tackle absenteeism in schools and a high profile launch.
The Sutton Life Centre relies on attracting about 48,000 visitors a year to make approximately £9,500 net profit.
Up until February this year, just 153 schools visited the centre since it opened in October 2010, despite council claims the education facility would pay for itself by hosting 1,300 visits a year from schools.
Conservative councillor Tony Shields, who is on the environments and neighbourhoods committee, said: "Never before have I seen such a desperate attempt to bail out a failing concept with yet more public money, this time to the cost of children's services.
"The last budget provided the Life Centre with an additional £596,000 clearly this was not enough to sustain this money hungry white elephant."
Chelsea Football Club Foundation, which was set up by Chelsea to fulfil a social responsibility pledges, approached the council with the initiative and if it is approved it will be the first of its kind between the club and a local authority.
The club say it could attract private sector funding through its strong brand and have proposed creating a development manager post to be based at the Life Centre on Alcorn Close, Sutton.
Chelsea will help the council "in marketing the Life Centre by attracting schools from across London and the south east."
In a report to be put to the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee tonight, it states: "The reach of the Chelsea brand combined with the added cache of a half day session with Chelsea FC should prove an attractive incentive for schools in booking a SLC experience."
The council will stump up the money from "existing resources" within youth services, the culture and leisure team and the Safer Sutton Partnership.
Warren Shadbolt, Executive Head of Community Safety said: "The funding for the project comes equally from the Safer Sutton Partnership, the Children and Young People’s Directorate and Sports Development.
"It is funding that was already allocated but had not yet been assigned to specific projects.
"Among the huge array of benefits Sutton’s residents would get from this partnership, if it goes ahead, are schemes to promote reading, healthy eating and social inclusion and measures to tackle absenteeism from school.
"It is our intention to use Sutton United, Carshalton Athletic and other local sporting organisations in the project, if they wish to get involved, but Chelsea Football Club Foundation has access to facilities that very few other organisations in the world have."
"They also can tap into additional funding streams of significant scale.
"This is not about increasing visitor numbers to the Life Centre, but it is our intention to visit every primary school in the borough in the first year and as a side benefit, give a higher profile to council services including the Life Centre."