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Inside Lines: Chelsea pitch in after new blow to Olympic legacy


Roman Abramovich may be more used to firing managers than arrows, but the Chelsea owner clearly has more pull over archery than Robin Hood.

His Premiership club have been given permission by Elmbridge Borough Council in Surrey to build a new indoor pitch on a green-belt site close to their existing training ground in the village of Stoke D'Abernon. Yet perversely the same council have rejected similar plans for a new archery centre in Walton-on-Thames, claiming "it would be a significant departure from our green-belt policy".

The curiously inconsistent decisions have caused dismay in the archery community, as the centre would have been used for training potential Olympians. "This is outrageous," says Archery GB's chairman, Dave Harrison. "What sort of message does this send out? It seems unfair that a minority sport should be denied such a facility while a rich and powerful football club are given the go-ahead. Whatever happened to Olympic legacy?"

The same question is posed by Britain's best-known archer, Alison Williamson, an Olympic bronze medallist who competed in a record sixth Games in London. "In the light of 2012 it is a terrible shame that youngsters will not be given this opportunity to take up a growing sport with such great traditions," she says.

While hardly on the scale of the bulldozing of Jessica Ennis's alma mater at Don Valley in Sheffield, it is another arrow in the eye for Olympic legacy. But the Elmbridge situation seems one of an influential sport such as football carrying more sway with the majority of the planning committee, one of whom, councillor Tony Popham, declared: "Chelsea are an international name and we should support them."

As well as backing Chelsea's plans for an indoor pitch and research centre, the Tory-dominated council also recently approved a new stadium for Ryman League club Walton & Hersham – also on a green-belt site. One Lib Dem councillor, Andrew Davis, who opposed all three proposals over the green-belt issue, tells us: "I personally felt Chelsea were rich enough to find somewhere outside the green-belt area, but there might have been a body of people who felt that after all it was Chelsea and they should be given what they wanted." But he adds: "In fairness, archery's case was not that well presented. There were also technical and structural reasons why it was turned down, though they can reapply."

Groves a switch-hitter

Fast-rising boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is to announce "a major signing" tomorrow. As Anthony Joshua was a ringside guest at his York Hall Prizefighters show last Saturday, speculation is rife that it may be the Olympic super-heavyweight champion.

Not so. Hearn's coup will be revealed as George Groves, the unbeaten Commonwealth super-middleweight champion who is switching from Frank Warren to the burgeoning Matchroom stable. Groves, 24, who famously beat Olympic champion James DeGale, was due to fight for the European title on Warren's 16 March Wembley bill.

Instead he will appear on Hearn's own Wembley bill next Saturday, initially as part of a two-fight deal. Meantime, I hear Joshua is in talks with US promoters Golden Boy.

Dropped Price can rise again

Heavyweight hope David Price got an unwelcome ear-bashing from American Tony Thompson last week. Now he needs another – from trainer Franny Smith, who must instruct him to keep his hands up.

He was caught literally off-guard, but big Pricey's consolation is that virtually every heavyweight of consequence has had to take it on the chin, but has come back to win, or regain, the world title.