PROFESSIONAL promoter Mark Neilson pens his latest thoughts from the world of boxing.

With the anticipated easing of lockdown restrictions later this month and as we reach step four of the roadmap with crowds permitted to attend events, I have one eye on future shows and potential venues.

We already have two shows pencilled in for September and November at Swindon’s MECA in the town centre, which although a great small hall boxing venue, has a crowd capacity that limits the number of fights we can have on.

Historically, our bigger events have had around 2,000 spectators and we have held these at the Oasis Leisure Centre. At the end of last year, operator GLL and landlord Seven Capital announced that the facility’s future is no longer viable and confirmed it would not be re-opening after the national lockdown restrictions were lifted.

Despite local community groups efforts to halt the redevelopment of the site, it is unlikely to be open or be a viable venue in the near future.

This causes us a frustrating problem, where do we hold our bigger shows? While we have closed our biggest indoor sporting venue, neighbouring towns and cities are opening them. Bristol’s Ashton Gate stadium recently unveiled revised plans for a new sports and conference venue, while Gloucester opened its new Oxstalls Sports Park facility in 2019. These add to their existing venues and are equalled in other local areas like Oxford and Reading.

We have looked at all types of venues over the years from hotel conference suites and other local sports centres. We’ve investigated putting a ring on the pitch at the County Ground and even covering the ice at the Link Centre, both though, have proven to be far too expensive.

It’s not just the Swindon boxing fans who suffer, but the local boxers. A smaller venue, means fewer fights. Fewer fights mean fewer boxers. Considering only a couple of Swindon’s boxers have fought during the last year due to Covid, it’s tough to tell them they now can’t fight after a year of not earning or progressing up the rankings.

The rationale behind the “FightTown” brand I created in 2019 was the brilliant and uniquely supportive boxing fans Swindon had. I travel to shows throughout the country and Swindon has some of the most loyal and vocal fans out there. Not being able to deliver the shows they are crying out for is criminal considering neighbouring towns can accommodate this.

I don’t know how to fix this problem, and I’m open to suggestions on any other venues or suitable options. I hope a solution arises soon that means fans and boxers won’t miss out on their beloved sport.