THE MALVERN HOOPS CAMPAIGN
BY JON MAY & TOM BENNETT
The Malvern Hoops Campaign began in 2016 after local basketball enthusiasts Jon May and Tom Bennett felt that the outdoor basketball facilities at Victoria Park, Malvern were in desperate need of refurbishment.
After more than 20 years of use, the hoops had rusted, the backboards had cracked, the nets had perished, the playing surfaces were uneven and the markings were out of date.
Uneven playing surfaces following repair works
Basketball goal after 20+ years of use.
The playing area was part of a MUGA (Multi-Use Games Area) which is a space designed to encourage multiple sports on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. However, this concept caused great tension over the years particularly between football and basketball players who both wanted to use the area regularly, especially during peak times.
Diagram showing the clashing of players during cross sports play.
Current site at Victoria Park
Jon and Tom decided to visit other basketball courts in the local area to see if anywhere else could offer an alternative place to play. However, the three other locations around Malvern were also in poor condition and unfortunately none of them were in a fit state to provide a suitable solution.
Hoop at Poolbrook field in Malvern
Shattered backboard at the Malvern Cube
Malvern Cube basketball courts became a car park for visitors.
Dukes Meadow court, also part of a MUGA and not functional for performing basic basketball moves such as the layup without colliding into the metal goal posts/crossbar.
So the pair decided to email their local council to express their concerns and find out if either a) anything could be done to help improve the facilities or b) see if a new playing area could be created solely for the use of basketball. This would help resolve the clash between football and basketball and give both sports an area to practice and play without conflict.
The council responded positively to the email and proposed a meeting to discuss the suggestion further.
The meeting proved a great success with the council agreeing that the basketball courts were long overdue an update, however achieving this would not be a simple task and would require Jon and Tom to do some groundwork and research.
It was suggested that the pair put together a proposal which covered a variety of factors including what could be done to improve the courts, possible locations for new courts to be built, what new basketball courts could do for Malvern, how this project could increase participation in the sport and much more.
It was at this point that Jon and Tom started The Malvern Hoops Campaign!
After a few months of extensive research and development, the pair were invited back to the council offices to discuss their findings in the form of a mini presentation.
They began by suggesting why a new playing area for basketball would be a better solution than updating what was already in place. One of the main reasons being, that no matter how good the new equipment was, the mixed use space would still pose a big problem.
Jon and Tom continued the presentation to identify five possible new locations around Malvern for new basketball courts, although one location in particular stood out to the council members, which was the grass area directly next to where the current basketball courts were at Victoria Park. The grass area currently had a large wooden climbing structure in place known as the Trim Trail, but the council agreed that this could be relocated elsewhere in the park, if this area was approved.
The next part of the presentation was an opportunity to show off some examples of modern, up to date and high spec outdoor basketball facilities from around the world.
It showed the future of outdoor sports flooring surfaces and how new designs were changing the way the game was being played by offering high impact and shock absorbing materials designed to cushion and support players during play.
The pair then highlighted a company named Flexcourt who specialise in outdoor surfaces and showed how their flooring could also minimise the impact of weathering by allowing water to drain away quicker, which would mean less waiting time to play after rain or frost. Using this type of all-weather surface would not only facilitate greater use, but also extend the lifespan of new courts.
Jon and Tom wrapped up their presentation by discussing their social media pages and website for the campaign which was already starting to see a great following in favour of new facilities.
The website for the campaign had been put together by Warren Haughey of Elemental Media who saw great potential for the project to do well in Malvern. Warren, also a basketball fan, was only too happy to put in some hours to get the pair up and running with a fresh looking website as quickly as possible. (Update* The website has since been revamped after 4 years with a new host, but The Malvern Hoops Campaign would like to thank Warren personally for his support).
The local press had also shown a great interest in the campaign and were running a number of stories in the papers and online which continued to attract more positive attention.
The council concluded the presentation by saying that they were happy to take the project forward and asked Jon and Tom to start sourcing suppliers and gathering quotations to get an idea of the costs and timescales involved.
After a few more months of in-depth research and promotion, the pair were again invited back for another presentation which took place in December 2017.
The purpose of this meeting would be to present the campaign’s proposal to 21 councillors who would ultimately get an opportunity to vote ‘for’ or ‘against’. If the majority were to vote against the idea, it would be a devastating blow to the 2 years of work that had already been invested. It would also mean that the proposal would not be allowed to be reviewed again for a minimum of 6 months!
The presentation went into great detail giving an overview of the project, discussing site layouts, costings, timescales, designs, benefits to the town, local clubs, potential users, fundraising ideas and more.
Presentation slide showing a few pages from Jon and Tom's original in-depth report on the current facilities around Malvern
Presentation slide showing local clubs and participation around Malvern.
At the end of the presentation and following a Q&A session, the proposal went to vote and was incredibly met with a unanimous decision of 21/21 councillors in favour of the project! A round of applause sealed the deal and a meeting was scheduled for January 2018 to start looking into funding and fundraising opportunities.
Tom and Jon preparing for the launch.
Front page of the Malvern Observer highlighting the campaign's success.
The support for the campaign was growing daily and Jon and Tom were beginning to receive emails from all over the country from people asking for the best ways to approach their local councils regarding new basketball courts, what steps were involved in the process and asking for advice and tips on starting up and running a campaign.
It was a great reaction to know that people were being inspired across the country to improve basketball in their area and to hear that they were looking to use The Malvern Hoops Campaign as a precedent, was a fabulous result.
So Jon and Tom looked for new ways to promote the campaign further and seized a wonderful opportunity in London to step out on the floor during halftime at the Eurobasket 2017 Qualifier between Team GB and Hungary at the Copperbox Arena.
With word of the campaign now spreading fast, Jon and Tom were overjoyed to hear that even more people wanted to support them, including The Worcester Wolves Basketball Club and University of Worcester!
Tom and Jon pictured with the Worcester Wolves who were now backing the campaign.
Wolves Director and University Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor Mick Donovan and Former University Director of Basketball Dale Ryan complimented the efforts of the campaign and offered their help and advice to see the campaign achieve its goal.
January 2018 saw the pair back for another meeting at the council offices, this time for a brainstorming session to discuss ways of raising money and to look at potential avenues for funding. With the council agreeing to handle the majority of the funds, The Malvern Hoops Campaign were challenged to make up the remainder of the costs.
This led to a number of ideas for fundraising including a ‘come and play’ event, which would be set up to encourage new players to get involved in the sport and also raise money through donations, refreshment sales, raffle competitions and campaign merchandise.
Another suggestion that arose from the meeting was to maybe focus the goal of the campaign on creating an ‘additional’ MUGA space instead of an area just for basketball. Sharing the space with a similar sport, like netball, would reduce the risk of clashing sports (like football) and could potentially open the doors for new sporting opportunities. It would also help the campaign to attract a larger following if it was able to promote two sports instead of one. The pair were onboard with the idea and diverted the campaign's course to look for ways to incorporate netball into their proposal.
With a busy few months ahead Jon and Tom were fired up to begin their fundraising challenge and set out by firstly establishing a connection with the netball community.
With currently no outdoor facilities available in Malvern for netball, it was unfortunate to hear that local players were having to take regular trips to Worcester (several miles away) just to play a game!
As soon as they heard of the campaigns plans to bring a netball playing space to Malvern, the community were only too happy to get involved and help. And so at that, a new logo was put together to highlight the new direction of the campaign.
The pair's next plan was to contact the BBL (British Basketball League) to not only promote the campaign even further, but find out if there was a chance of obtaining some free merchandise or tickets that could later be used in a raffle to help them with the fundraising.
The BBL responded positively to the request and every team in the league sent items to the campaign ranging from family tickets to signed jerseys and basketballs. It was truly a landmark moment for Jon and Tom to be recognised and supported by the BBL and to also see the campaign splashed across every team’s social media pages.
With the fundraising now underway, the next step was to create an online store for people to purchase campaign merchandise like hoodies, jumpers and T-shirts. Each product was designed to promote the two sports and were available in all sizes for men, women and children. To visit the full range, click here.
At this point the campaign appeared to be running smoothly, but behind the scenes it was starting to take its toll. After two and half long years of trying to juggle the campaign around full time jobs, family life, holidays, sickness and other various commitments, it was proving tough for Jon and Tom to keep up the momentum. Both were struggling to find the time to meet up and the end goal of the campaign still seemed a long way off.
However, the campaign was about to get the motivation it needed when Jon and Tom were invited to attend the Malvern Hills District Council Sports Awards night where they would go on to win the trophy for Community Project of The Year 2018!
The award and recognition for the project, along with the additional support from Emma-Jane Gardner Team Manager of the Worcester Wolves Academy, (who has valuable experience with regards to basketball and developing sport in the local community) sparked new life into the campaign and the pair agreed to keep battling on to try and make the dream a reality.
With the challenge still ahead to raise funds for the project, Jon decided to contact Dennis at Flexcourt who was now the campaign’s chosen supplier for installing the outdoor sports surface and for providing the basketball and netball goals. Jon asked if Flexcourt could possibly offer any kind of discount to reduce their quotation and explained that any help would go a long way towards their fundraising efforts.
Dennis made some calls and phoned back later that afternoon to say that as a gesture of goodwill and as they were so impressed with the efforts of running such an ambitious campaign, Flexcourt and their suppliers were willing to offer a discount of £2,500.00!
This was a fabulous boost for the campaign and it allowed things to start moving forward quicker with discussions soon taking place around construction dates and times.
However after revisiting the plans, a drastic alteration was to be made!
With the space for the new courts extremely tight and with no room to extend in either direction, it became clear that it would not be possible to run the netball courts across the basketball courts as they would have to be made shorter than regulation in order to fit. One of the key elements of the campaign for netball was to provide courts that could be used in tournament situations and if the courts were going to be smaller, they would simply not get used.
It was then discovered that where the tennis courts were in the corner of the park, used to be a previous home to two full sized netball courts, but as the netball goals were moveable, it quickly became a target for vandalism.
And so a new plan emerged to turn the tennis courts into a new MUGA space alongside netball (and with fixed goals) meaning the basketball courts would once again return to being a basketball only space.
This would not change the goal of the campaign however, and the focus of getting new basketball and netball facilities was still the number one priority.
With everything in place, things were moving fast and it seemed more and more likely that the goal for the campaign may even be achieved before the end of 2018.
Diagram showing the final proposed plan.
Councillor Linda Blake meeting with Flexcourt's Dennis de Haese to discuss the surfacing installation.
Unfortunately however, the dream was short lived as the UK was about to suffer months of bad weather with regular downpours and strong winds. This meant that any type of construction was unable to proceed and so the project was postponed until Spring 2019.
With fundraising continuing in the background, Jon and Tom pushed on throughout the winter months to promote the campaign further and run new competitions and giveaways to hype the 2019 summer launch event!
As April came round, so did the campaign’s biggest setback yet!
The council had suddenly been informed by the planning department that there was a major flaw in the proposed location.
The grass area that was due to become the home of the new basketball courts turned out to be concealing a huge gas pipe which ran right through the middle of the site, meaning that any type of construction here was deemed impossible!
Diagram showing the gas line running right through the court.
New plan showing the courts relocation to the football pitch area.
As expected, a number of months passed as the campaign underwent its second review and it finally got the green light to proceed on 14, November 2019!
With the project now back on track, the campaign was given yet another boost following a £2,000 injection from Jon’s company SEEDTECH Studios to pay for a 2 metre gap between the two courts. It was decided that having the courts directly side by side (as shown in the diagram above) with no space between could be highly dangerous, especially when two games are running at the same time.
SEEDTECH Studios are a local family-run company who specialise in 3D design and more recently video game development.
(Look out for their racing game Tony Slopes coming soon!).
With everything moving forward, a new meeting was called to start planning an official launch date.
After some discussion it was agreed that May 16th 2020, (a week before the schools were due to break up for half-term) seemed an ideal time to open the new courts! It was also likely to be a good time of year for some sunshine on the big day too!
Campaign flyer to promote the May launch.
In preparation for the launch, there were many things to start thinking about including refreshments, music, advertising, pre-event fundraisers, activity days, promotions and more.
As 2019 became 2020, plans were underway and the excitement for the project was growing!
But just when it looked like it was all about to become a reality, the campaign faced its biggest hurdle of all! The Coronavirus! An international pandemic that sent every business, contractor, councillor and campaigner across the country into an emergency lockdown situation!
Government broadcast encouraging everyone to stay home.
View of London's Regent Street highlighting
the impact across the country.
At the worst possible time, everything to do with the campaign was forced to stop immediately!
The government were now enforcing new rules and regulations on a daily basis to 'stay at home' and it seemed that the Malvern Hoops Campaign had somehow run full steam into a brick wall!
What was originally believed to be a 6 week national delay, turned into several months and the original launch date of the 16th May came and went.
Restrictions began easing around July 2020 and the council were keen to keep the project moving forward.
As soon as it was deemed safe to do so, construction teams arrived on site and for the first time, the ground was broken and the project was finally underway! The teams got to work on laying the concrete foundations for the basketball courts and after such a painful delay it began to feel like everything was back on track!
Over the next few weeks, the site began to take shape with the concrete foundations in place, the fences and gates constructed around the perimeter of the playing area and a stairway built leading down to the courts from the car park.
Things were going well, until a second wave of Covid-19 hit the UK around November 2020 which forced the country back into another lockdown with tighter restrictions than before. As the pandemic continued to rage, the project schedule continued to suffer.
December 2020 then came with a whole new wave of challenges!
Not only was the pandemic about to reach its peak, but the equipment now also needed to be shipped over from Belgium as quickly as possible! With Brexit on the horizon (Jan 1st 2021) and the threat of huge increases in import taxes and the borders scheduling to close before Christmas, a plan was needed and fast!
The first step was to find a storage unit but amongst the chaos of current events, they were being booked up quicker than ever before. After a number of attempts and a stroke of luck, two units were secured in Worcester (9 miles from the site).
Once the storage space was secured, the next steps were to:
a) schedule the delivery from Belgium to the UK.
b) ensure there was a team on standby ready to receive the delivery.
c) make sure that the delivery could be unloaded and the equipment stored away safely and
d) ensure that the delivery driver had enough time to get back to Belgium before the border closed.
(It became like a military operation!)
Covid cases peak in December 2020
Brexit transition scheduled for Jan 1st 2021
After some organisation the lorry was loaded up in Belgium and the delivery was scheduled to arrive in Worcester on the 19th December at 10am. At this point the government guidelines were extremely tight and so the goal was to have as little contact with whoever was to be involved in the team to help unload. The team of 4 was chosen as 2 members from the council, Linda and Graham and campaigner Jon and his dad Ray.
Everything seemed to be organised and in position for the 19th, until the first problem occurred. The delivery driver arrived a day early!
Council members rushed over to the site to try and manage the situation only to find that the driver has also arrived with his delivery in the wrong order. To even get to the basketball equipment meant having to firstly remove thousands of pounds worth of glass that was for another customer. Apart from the fact that no-one wanted to be responsible for any damages caused, there was also no equipment at the site to cater for this mammoth task. With that, the driver immediately packed up his lorry and raced off to Wales and Bristol for his other deliveries with a goal to return later that afternoon. Jon and Ray arrived at the site shortly after and waited until 5pm, but the driver never returned.
With just days until the UK border was to close, everything was on a knife-edge as to whether there was enough time to get a second delivery attempt. After some negotiations, the 23rd December became the last opportunity to get the equipment delivered.
After the first attempt, it was quickly noted that a fork lift truck was required to unload the delivery as the lorries were arriving without tail lifts. Thankfully local business SPAL stepped in and offered their services to help on the 23rd.
The day arrived and everyone was in position. The SPAL forklift began unloading the lorry and the team of 4 worked together to start shipping the equipment into the storage units.
Despite the torrential rain and strong winds that battered the team throughout the day, everything was looking good and all were looking forward to getting home for Christmas with the equipment all safely stored in Worcester.
Unfortunately, during the task of lifting one of the heavy glass backboards, Jon severely injured his back and was unable to continue. Luckily about 95% of the delivery was now in storage but just moments later Ray (Jon's dad) stepped back onto a nail that was sticking out of one of the pallets. Both Jon and Ray were to spend the rest of the time sitting out, but thankfully Linda and Graham were able to finish the remainder of the delivery. (It was safe to say at this point that the campaign was truly a feat of blood, sweat and tears!)
After returning home, Ray spent his next few weeks hobbling around with an injured foot and Jon was left confined to his bed and barely able to move from Christmas Eve 2020 until April 2021. A valuable lesson was learned here, in that these type of tasks should always be handled by professionals, despite the pressures to get the delivery accepted in such tight timescales.
On May 17th 2021, the government were ready to start easing the restrictions, although it wouldn't be until August 2021 that Dennis (from Flexcourt) would be allowed to travel over from Belgium to oversee the project.
And so on Monday 16th August 2021, the site at Victoria Park in Malvern came to life!
Day 1 Progress!
In just 5 days, the entire project was constructed and Malvern finally had its long awaited basketball courts!
(The images below are the result of years of hard work, dedication, passion, enthusiasm and a love for the game of basketball!)
The basketball courts were officially opened on the 29th August 2021 at 12 noon by Mayor Cllr Nick Houghton and Cllr Cynthia Palmer, as part of the 'Mayor's Bonanza' event.
People came from all over to check out the new facilities, shoot some hoops and get involved in the various events that were running on the day. Unfortunately Tom was unable to attend the event as he was away on a family holiday, so Jon teamed up with Emma Jane-Gardner (Team Manager of the Worcester Wolves Academy) to help prepare the event schedule.
Each court was divided up throughout the day to showcase a variety of different basketball groups.
The adults 3v3 tournament, run by Will Brain of the Malvern Mavericks, exhibited some fast paced and exciting matchups as 12 teams battled it out for the number one spot.
Anthony Matthews run the U16s sessions, Alex Radu the U14s and Andy Johnstone the U11s. Each session showcased a variety of skills and drills at different levels whilst promoting the up and coming local basketball talent.
One goal was reserved throughout the day for anyone who wanted to come and have a go at shooting the ball. (This hoop remained in constant use for almost 6hrs!)
It is estimated that almost 500 people turned up to play basketball on the day!
The event was a huge success and it truly highlighted the huge following for basketball in the local area.
Over the next week, the courts would see more and more people heading down to play games and check out the new facilities. The dramatic spike in the interest of basketball had seen the local Argos store (the only place in Malvern to buy a basketball) sell out within two days of the opening!
It was fair to say that the campaign had not only achieved its goal to bring the best 'public' outdoor basketball courts in the country to Malvern but also to greatly improve participation in the sport!
The next steps of the campaign will be for Jon and Tom to meet with the council to discuss ways of protecting and improving the facility for the future and also planning for part two of the campaign to launch the new netball courts which are currently scheduled for October 2021. (Stay tuned!)
[ This page will be updated again shortly ]
This was an absolutely devastating blow to the campaign after 3 years of hard work!
The council quickly called an emergency meeting with Jon and Tom to discuss the project and see if there was any way that it could be salvaged.
Discussions began around finding a new place for the project, but it was clear that any new location would warrant yet another public consultation, a new plan/design for submission, planning approval, site research and more which would all take a considerable amount of time.
It was an easy moment to throw in the towel and give up on the whole campaign, but the passion and energy was still there from the pair to bring Malvern the basketball / netball courts it had been waiting for.
Within two weeks of the meeting, the council had their eye on a new location.
In an attempt to keep the project at Victoria Park, the council were looking at reducing one of their two large grass football pitches to make space for the new courts.
The Malvern Hoops Campaign | 2021
Basketball goal after 20+ years of use.
Uneven playing surfaces following repair works
Current site at Victoria Park.
Diagram showing the clashing of players during cross sports play.
New plan showing the courts relocation to the football pitch area.