As local teams prepare for the resumption of competitive sports over the next few weeks an 11-year-old football fanatic has vowed to continue his campaign to stop the closure of the Lismore-based Liverpool Football Academy.
Oliver Hoath-Bastion and his team mates were ready to return to training last month with the elite football academy, run in conjunction with the Southern Cross University, when the news came through without warning that the program had been closed.
‘It was kind of confusing. I was really devastated,’ he said.
Oliver set about galvanising local support to have the closure decision overturned and started an online petition with change.org to make it happen.
Positive community response
What started out with some door-knocking, ended up with a petition signed by over 2, 000 people in three days.
‘Liverpool has helped me, so I wanted to help them,’ he said.
Mainstream media got behind the story and political support soon followed with the Lismore mayor Issac Smith, state member Janelle Saffin, and federal member Kevin Hogan, all backing the idea of continuing the program in some way.
‘Since opening five years ago Liverpool International Academy Lismore has had 1,500 players and 150 coaches in its program which means a lot of families in the Northern Rivers are going to be effected by it closing,’ Oliver’s petition says.
Remi Bastion, Oliver’s mum, understands that the SCU is in serious financial difficulties because of COVID-19.
If the Liverpool Academy can’t find another supporter, she and Remi are hoping that an alternative high-level junior program can be organised to make it possible for local rep teams to travel to Queensland to play in the A-league competition.
Among others she has spoken with Football Far North Coast.
‘This Academy has given me more confidence in myself, it has helped my football skills, motivated me to keep aiming higher, and has given me the feeling that I have a real chance of becoming a professional footballer,’ Oliver’s petition says.
On Tuesday (7 July) the petition had 2,598 supporters and Oliver has vowed to keep the campaign going.