Romford businessman looking to make sports club the biggest in London

A Romford businessman is aiming to make a local sport club the biggest and best in England.

Hotel owner Paul Harris, has taken over Sporthouse in Barking, and says “there is no reason why this can’t be bigger than Crystal Palace”.

The centre already boasts an Olympic-sized running track, one of the biggest indoor sports halls in Europe, has hosted top handball and netball fixtures, and is the official home of English Futsal – a seven-a-side indoor football competition which is credited with helping hone the skills of some of the world’s top players.

In the summer it also saw the likes of Oscar Pistorius use its facilities when it was an official Paralympic training venue.

The 65-year-old proprietor of the Harefield Manor Hotel in Main Road, Romford, has owned the centre for just over a month and has plans to make it even bigger.

He said: “I was at the opening in March and it took by breath away, then I was asked to look at it by the people involved who wanted to get out and I said ‘yes’.”

Part of his new plan involves opening a second Harefield Hotel on site with 100-beds, and a conference and banqueting suite – which would be subject to gaining planning permission.

Most Read

Having owned the Harefield Manor for 15-years the former lawyer and banker, originally from Bow, said that his philosophy for running the sports centre is no different than for his original hotel.

“It’s all the same, what (money) comes in has got to equal what goes out, and make a profit. It’s a part of the Olympic legacy and if we get it right it could be quite amazing,” he said.

And he has staff who believe in his project. Phil Daniels, fitness manager, said: “We want to do all the things that a regular health club does, but we want to take it to the next level.

“There are probably only two other places in the country that compare with the equipment we have – Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Loughborough.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter