Aylesbury Vale District Council says The Bucks Herald’s campaign to Make Football More Affordable is unlikely to bear fruit anytime soon because it barely breaks even on the town’s grass pitches.
The council has come in for heavy criticism since Herald Sport launched the campaign two weeks ago, being blamed for a rapid decline in the grassroots game due to rising pitch hire fees.
But in a staunch defence of its prices and provision of facilities, AVDC’s community spaces manager Gareth Bird and leisure services manager Lesley Davies have suggested it is insufficient financial planning that often forces clubs to fold.
“When they’re starting out clubs know the fixtures and costs and how many games they are going to be playing,” Mr Bird said.
“It comes down to some basic financial management and making sure players give the right money each week rather than waiting until halfway through the season and realising it is too much.
“All the clubs want it to be cheaper, we do, who doesn’t? But the prices have gone up with the rate of inflation.
“We are sometimes asked by others ‘ho do you make money out of grass pitches?’ and the answer is you don’t.
“You would be lucky to break even.
“With our pitches they are booked up, then we let the contractor know how many teams will be at which pitches and they will set up staff for the weekend so people are already committed to working and getting the pavilions ready and making sure the pitches are good.
“All the nets and flags are provided and put up by the contractor because we don’t have teams putting up anything anymore.
“We aks players to help identify things like dog mess which is then dealt with by the contractor and does not have to be dealt with by teams or players.
“Then you have to take into account when someone cancels, we’re still expected to pick up the bill.
“The notion that people are paying twice is also incorrect, we always try to minimise the impact on the taxpayer.”
Bird and Davies both said they backed the Herald’s campaign in the principal of getting more people involved in sport.
But they were keen to stress the council now provides 11 multi-use games areas around the town which are free to use for any teams for training.
Mr Bird added: “One of our biggest problems is teams using the council pitches for training.
“We really cannot allow clubs to do that because the pitches are there for the weekend games.
“It only results in the pitches not being in the right condition for those matches and it is the same clubs that moan when the pitches aren’t up to scratch.
“Ultimately it drives the costs up for everyone.”
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