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Monday, 10 December 2012 (3033471)
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by Natasha Young

JUNIOR football leagues in Sefton have blasted the council's claims that young footballers would still only have to pay £2 to use facilities in the borough under the proposed pitch fee hikes.

Teams from leagues across Seton boycotted their matches at the weekend to join in a demonstration at the Buckley Hill playing fields in Netherton, as they continued their fight against the cost increases.

A public consultation is currently underway into proposed savings option to charge teams the full cost of grounds maintenance and utililties for the pitches they use - a move which Southport's Hesketh Colts club secretary Alice Sumner fears would bring a 400% rise in costs and could trigger the “demise” of some clubs in the local area.

Following the demonstration, which also attention from television crews, a spokesperson for Sefton Council said: “No final decision has yet been made about this but it is one of a number of proposals being discussed as the authority looks to make savings of just under £44 million over the next two years.

”In the past our football pitches have been heavily subsidised. Under these proposals the final costs to users will depend on a number of different factors such as how many teams use the pitch, but it should still only cost a junior footballer about £2 a week to use our facilities. We feel this is not an excessive amount compared to some other sports.“

Ms Sumner, who also deals with the under 15/16 registrations for north Sefton's Craven Minor Junior Football, and John Mansfield from the Bootle, Litherland and Netherton League pointed out that not every club has the same amount of players, and also clubs are run by volunteers and already have to pay lots of additional costs to stay up and running, as well as giving money to the council.

Ms Sumner said that by claiming each child would only have to pay £2 per week it showed people in the council have ”no grasp on reality at all.“

Both leagues said clubs have to pay out fees and equipment costs for needs such as referees, trophies, coach training, CRB checks, kits and footballs, and Ms Sumner added: ”We can only go cap in hand so much to sponsors.

“All this lot adds up and if we took a calculator and worked out that each child should pay a bit towards everything the bill would be astronomical and we couldn't do it.”

Mr Mansfield, joined Ms Sumner and organiser Kenny Saunders of Woolton FC to speak at the demonstration, explained that the action had provoked a response from the council as he received an invitation to a meeting later this week to “bring clarity on proposed charges.”

Sefton Council added: “A decision on this will be made in the New Year and in the meantime we would ask as many people as possible to fill in our consultation form on the Sefton Council website and have their say. Just visit and click on the Consultations pages.”


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