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Wyre Forest football clubs cry foul over council pitch fees
Save our clubs: From left, Valerie Swift, Mark Poole, Ernie Pyke and Wyre Forest FC’s Joe Wassell. They say increased charges for council pitches will mean fewer teams.
THE final whistle could be about to blow for more teams in Kidderminster’s amateur football league if charges for council pitches continue to rise, officials have warned.
Kidderminster and District Football League has already lost eight clubs since June due to Wyre Forest District Council charges, which have risen sharply for this season. There are now 91 teams competing in the league’s eight Saturday and Sunday divisions – down from more than 100 last season.
For Wyre Forest-based adult teams, hiring a district councilowned “grade A” pitch costs £64, up from £61 last season and £58 the year before.
Non-resident teams, mainly based in Dudley and Stourbridge, however, saw their charges soar from £71.50 to £85 a game this season.
Club bosses say prices, on top of hiring a referee and paying their expenses, can add up to more than £100 a match and spaces on cheaper, privately-owned pitches are limited.
Conservative councillor Ian Hardiman, council cabinet member for community wellbeing, said maintaining the pitches was expensive and the authority heavily subsidised prices.
League chairman and secretary Ernie Pyke said: “If they do not stop this or reduce the prices, I predict we will lose another 10 sides during or at the end of the season. I have got six vacancies now and another two or three clubs looking to come off but struggling to find alternative venues.”
He added there would be no vacancies if a lower price was charged and income, therefore, “would be greater”.
Valerie Swift, secretary and treasurer of Hillgrove, who play at White Wickets, Kidderminster, said her team did not have sponsorship: “[The council] should stop putting the prices up – we are struggling.”
Mark Poole, secretary of Stourbridge Athletic, who play at Brown Westhead Park, Wolverley, and whose oldest player is 24, said: “We are looking at finding another venue – at the moment we cannot afford to sustain it.”
Mr Hardiman said the council would meet representatives of the teams and the Worcestershire Football Association later this month to discuss ways different ways of managing the pitches.
Regarding the cost to non-resident teams, Mr Hardiman added: “The council does not think Wyre Forest residents should be subsidising those teams outside of the district to the same extent as local teams. It wants to encourage people in the district to play football.”
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