De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has an excellent record of working with communities across the city of Leicester.
However, for many months, we have struggled to engage constructively with the General Secretary of Beaumont Town Football Club (BTFC), Nick Langton.
Last night, protestors disrupted DMU football matches and training at Beaumont Park. Police were called when students and staff were abused, spat at, jostled and threatened as jeering crowds, protesting allegedly on behalf of Beaumont Town Football Club, attempted to deny access to the ground by DMU students and staff.
One of DMU's students was physically assaulted. Tyler Kent, a first-year History student and a member of the women's football team which trains on Monday evenings, said: "We were trying to get into the training park when I was dragged to the other side of the road and knocked to the floor. As a result, I've got bruising on my knee and arm. Some adults were using children to obstruct my way and using threats that they would contact social services if I touched them. It was threatening and scary."
Fiona Dick, a member of DMU staff, said: "What started as a peaceful protest rapidly turned sour when the DMU Women's Football club arrived to start training. The verbal, and at times physical abuse they received from children and mothers, was astonishing, as was the throwing of punches at staff, pulling students to the ground and attempting to grab bags and possessions."
DMU Security guard Morgan Lloyd was also physically assaulted. He said: "While the women's football team were trying to enter the ground, a few parents surged forward to the gate and we were trying to get them back. At that point I felt a blow to my kidney."
The safety and security of its students and staff are of paramount importance to DMU and we deplore in the strongest terms the violent and inflammatory actions of protesters last night. We are aware that many decent, law-abiding parents whose children play for Beaumont Town Football Club are greatly distressed at the provocative actions of protesters and we appeal to them to work with us to establish a partnership based on mutual respect, support and cooperation.
DMU has invested £2.3m in the facilities at Beaumont Park, creating a new all-weather 3G artificial pitch, two FA-compliant pitches, including floodlights for night games, increasing changing room and storage facilities, improving paths around the site and extending and modernising the site's clubhouse.
DMU has also been working in Beaumont Leys for 18 months on projects aimed at tackling issues identified by the community including the lack of facilities for young people and raising skills levels.
Led by the award-winning DMU Square Mile through its #DMUlocal programme - which helps support positive change with more than 60 public good projects across the city - the university is working with police, Leicester City Council, community leaders and voluntary groups in the city.
READ MORE ABOUT DMU'S WORK AT BEAUMONT PARK HERE
Martin Buchanan, Vice Chair of Beaumont Lodge Neighbourhood Association CIO, said: "Recent media reports about De Montfort University and tensions with Beaumont Town Football Club are a million miles away from the experience we have had with the university over the past five years. The DMU Square Mile team have helped us, and continue to help us, with a number of community events and initiatives. For example, only a couple of months ago, DMU partnered with us on our Summer Fun Day event which attracted around 300 children and their families who live in the Beaumont Leys area.
"Without their assistance and student volunteers, we also would not be able to offer free youth club sessions twice a month at Beaumont Lodge Neighbourhood Centre and their support and help towards our youth sessions means that young people in the area will have access to new equipment.
"Without this support, our sessions have struggled to continue as a lack of volunteers who will give up their Friday nights has been a major issue. Thanks to the volunteers that DMU sends we are able to continue and expand our youth sessions for children in the area to fortnightly. DMU is also helping Beaumont Leys to develop a new community strategy and are instrumental in providing support to help start new groups that could potentially have a positive effect and create new prospects for a large number of people in Beaumont Leys."
Neil Wright, Chairman of Studs FC, said: "De Montfort University have supported our club, Studs FC, for four years now and without them we would not have been able to survive. The strong relationship between us makes everyone's life at the club easier. With their support and volunteers we have been able to invest in equipment for all our teams. In the time we have been working together, we are on a more sustainable footing, meaning we don't have to worry about having a place to train and play and we can focus on planning our training sessions for our young players.
"DMU Square Mile does an absolutely wonderful job in our community in the west of Leicester. Without their support we wouldn't be able to provide our free Kid's Academy that teaches 4-7 year old boys and girls from the community the basics of football. Without their support, advice and willingness to help, we would not be able to provide football for 70+ older children from the community either.
"All the coaches and I feel forever in debt to De Montfort University for the support that DMU Square Mile has provided us - and long may this relationship continue!"
DMU remains committed to Beaumont Leys and to community football but we cannot allow a situation to develop where the safety of our students and staff is in any way compromised. Due to these events, DMU is unfortunately unable to guarantee the health and safety of users of the Beaumont Park facilities and regrets that they will be closed until further notice. We are currently sorting through the copious photographic and other evidence gathered during the disturbances and are referring the matter to the police and to the Football Association.
It has become absolutely clear from these events that it is Nick Langton, General Secretary of BTFC, who we believe to be the cause of the problems, not the club itself. It is equally clear that we are no longer able to work with a local management that does not appear to act in the best interests of the club and the local community. We will happily work with a reconstituted committee and would encourage all parents who wish their children to continue to use the facilities at Beaumont Park to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on Tuesday 15th November 2016