Cash-strapped teams accuse leisure chiefs of scoring an own goal

Boghead pitches - Ian Stevenson complaining about drainage'Photo Emma Mitchell'22/11/12
Boghead pitches - Ian Stevenson complaining about drainage'Photo Emma Mitchell'22/11/12

LOCAL sports teams could be in danger of folding due to the soaring cost of hiring pitches, it has been claimed.

The ongoing rain has meant frequent call-offs for clubs – and eye-watering bills for securing all-weather facilities.

Lenzie Youth Club were left counting the cost recently when a Scottish Cup game had to be switched from the Boghead playing fields to Kirkintilloch High School’s astroturf pitch.

The game cost them £152.40 – £116.40 for the pitch and £36 for the referee – not including refreshments for their opposition from Edinburgh.

Leader Ian Stevenson revealed: “That is over £10 each for every Lenzie player who took part and this is just unsustainable.

“Lenzie Youth Club has been going for 32 seasons and provides football weekly for 164 youngsters on a voluntary basis. The club objective is participation – not anti-social behaviour.

“However, with these charges Lenzie is in danger of folding, like so many other well-established EDC voluntary youth clubs have done.

“The council needs to cut these astro costs. Other nearby councils charge £30 per game for their astro pitches. which is a much more acceptable figure, and make the astro pitches in local schools available when needed.

“How important is it to EDC to have youngsters involved in sport?”

Mr Stevenson said every season Lenzie booked the only pitch available in Lenzie, the Academy playing fields in Boghead Road.

However, he revealed, despite “sterling work” by the council’s Greenspace staff, the grass pitch has a clay base – meaning water cannot drain away. That has seen games cancelled even in the summer.

Mr Stevenson said: “The club feels if the grass is not playable the alternative, whether astro or grass, should be charged at the same rate.

“Surely the maintenance of astro is not higher than grass which needs cut, rolled and lined. Yet grass is charged at £21 a game and astro is anything from £73 to £116.40 a game.”

East Dunbartonshire Council leader Rhondda Geekie has been supportive of the club’s efforts to get games played and helped them to access facilities on a Sunday.

She said she sympathised, but stressed: “The council budgets now are struggling to offer any additional subsidies. It would be great if we could get some sponsorship for the club to cover some of its costs.”

The council’s head of education, Gordon Currie, said, “Following consultation with football clubs regarding the availability of PPP school sports facilities on a Sunday, East Dunbartonshire Council have secured agreement with development company InspirED who lease these facilities, to make three PPP schools available for community use on a Sunday.

“These schools are Bishopbriggs Academy, Kirkintilloch High School and Bearsden Aacdemy. In order to provide these facilities at a concessionary rate (£38.80 per hour), there is a minimum booking requirement of three hours. For a club such as Lenzie Youth Club this results in a total cost of £116.40.

“East Dunbartonshire Council makes a loss on this in order to provide customers with a concessionary rate for youth activities.”

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