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EXCLUSIVE: KCL Spend £100,000/Year More on Honor Oak Park than New Malden

New Malden sign trampled under leaves

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by Roar has revealed that an average of only £157,000/year has been spent on the New Malden Sports Ground over the last four years, compared to £261,000/year on Honor Oak Park (HOP), despite a “desperate need” for renovations.

Only £629,842 has been spent by King’s College London (KCL) on the upkeep of the New Malden (Berrylands) site since the start of the 2019/20 academic year, compared to £1,042,362 on HOP. This 40% differential comes despite consistent complaints from teams training at the Berrylands site.

Last year alone, King’s spent £445,804 on HOP, but only £209,670 on New Malden.

‘Non-pay expenditure’ on each site

The £100,000/year expenditure gap has occurred despite the vastly different quality of facilities available at each site, with the state of the Berrylands training ground far worse than HOP. Teams training at the New Malden site have been complaining of poor conditions and under-investment for multiple seasons.

According to emails seen by Roar, an issue with broken floodlights was flagged to the King’s Estates team in spring 2022, but adequate replacements did not arrive until autumn 2023. Pitches are often waterlogged and the kit storage containers are disintegrating. Players often use an outside hose for drinking water, although KCL claim that there are other taps available.

In contrast, HOP users have access to 2 floodlit artificial pitches and a modern pavilion. One sportsman who trains at HOP told Roar that their facilities were indeed “much better” than those at Berrylands, praising the “well maintained” and “up to date” clubhouse.

It therefore seems likely that a much larger share of non-pay expenditure on New Malden is on fixing pressing issues, making the differential with HOP even harder to explain. However, KCL told Roar that a large share of expenditure at HOP is on “planned preventative maintenance issues, not relating to the delivery of sport”.

In 2019, the University published plans to redevelop New Malden, including the installation of artificial pitches. The upgrades never took place on the scale which was proposed. The University state that this was due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The FOI request also asked KCL for “documented reviews into the quality of King’s sport facilities since the start of the 2021/22 academic year”. None were provided, on the basis that no reviews of this nature had been conducted by the University during this period. The University does insist that they “constantly review the facilities and Sport Dept in relation to Health and Safety, compliance, and continuous improvement”, although these were not deemed “relevant” at the time of Roar’s FOI request.

Roar is aware that in February 2024, after taking a tour of the site, a senior KCL Sport representative conceded to students that “New Malden’s provision isn’t where I would aspire for it to be”. However, King’s still has the quote “Beautifully kept grounds” prominently displayed on their website advertising the grounds.

Mark Burgess, Head of Sport and Wellness, told Roar:

“We know that the site in New Malden is an ageing facility in need of improvement and have been engaging with student groups using the sports grounds to hear their concerns and discuss plans for the future, which includes replacing storage containers and annual pitch repair work. We regularly review all King’s sports facilities to ensure all sites meet health and safety, and quality standards.”

Mark Burgess, KCL Head of Sport

A KCL Men’s Rugby (KCLMRFC) spokesperson told Roar of their disappointment at the “substandard conditions” and “disregard from senior administration”:

“The lack of investment and general treatment of students at New Malden leaves us all feeling downtrodden, undervalued and largely forgotten about by the University. During many conversations, the dire condition has been repeatedly highlighted. The substandard conditions, fraught with health and safety hazards, are a stark contrast to the facilities available at HOP. Sadly, investment has been disproportionately given to GKT sports facilities, while New Malden has been forgotten about.

The lack of concern for the primary KCL sports ground should be considered one of the most profound failures at the university in recent years. It also reflects the wider and more general pattern at KCL, where the senior administration disregards genuine concerns made by students. KCL is falling down the league tables while its sports facilities are neglected. We are concerned at what point there becomes a breach of a duty of care by the University.

Regrettably, the lack of clarity regarding whom to approach with these concerns has left us feeling neglected. Despite extensive work this year with the Union, we do not know who to contact to initiate a funding review. It is disheartening to see engaged students such as ourselves grappling with these challenges without a clear pathway for resolution. We really hope that the new director of Sport, Mark Burgess, is able to convince senior officials that New Malden is worth mending. We’re not asking for the world, or a next-generation multimillion-pound overhaul, we just want the minimum standard to be met and to be able to get a cup of tea at the place we call home.”

KCLMRFC spokesperson

KCL Men’s Football (KCLMFC) similarly expressed their disappointment at the relative under-investment and under-emphasis on Berrylands by KCL, labelling the disparity a product of “apathy and contempt”:

“We were more than aware of the lack of investment in New Malden but understood this was down to a lack of funding in sports facilities across the board. It is shocking to us that HOP, a much newer and higher standard ground has been given so much more funding that the dilapidated NM. This bemusing revelation has caused a level of deep disappointment that to our members associate only too well with a decision made by King’s College London.

The university seems to give no thought to how tough it is to, alongside educational commitments, run a student society without access to the proper facilities. It creates multiple jobs and stress points for student leaders that just aren’t necessary. The years of inaction by the university in neglecting New Malden Sports Ground, once again demonstrates the apathy and contempt in which they hold their student body.

KCLMFC spokesperson

KCL Women’s Football (KCLWFC) and KCL Women’s Rugby (KCLWRFC) were similarly approached for comment.



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