MARK Lawrenson has given his support to thousands of junior footballers set to strike over proposed rises to pitch rental fees.
The Liverpool FC legend labelled the increases “ridiculous”, admitting if he was a parent of a player affected by the plans he would join the protests.
His comments come as thousands of junior footballers from across Merseyside prepare to boycott fixtures to back teams in south Sefton threatened by the cost hikes.
More than 8,000 players will not play scheduled matches this weekend as clubs from neighbouring boroughs unite against potential rises.
Several leagues have so far signed up to the protest, including the Bootle Junior Football League, Mossley Hill JFL and Wirral JFL.
Dozens of individual clubs and teams have also said they will strike.
Former LFC defender Mr Lawrenson, who lives in Sefton, condemned plans to increase pitch costs for juniors by as much as 300%.
Speaking to the Visiter he said: “It’s ridiculous, the daft thing is even though we are going through a recession and councils are trying to extract more money out of everything they are hitting the wrong thing here.
“Every day we are being told we are turning into a nation that’s obese and overweight – this isn’t going to help.”
The Match of the Day pundit explained football was vital for helping children develop and this could be lost if players were forced out of the game.
He added: “If there’s a rise because of the recession absolutely fine, but in terms of the money it’s totally ridiculous and [if] we are saying if you don’t pay the money you don’t play we are not going to be a sporting nation off the back of that.”
Boycott organiser Kenny Saunders, who coaches at Woolton FC in Liverpool, said support had been “immense” and urged teams to join the protest to prevent Sefton council from setting a precedent that could be followed elsewhere.
Mr Saunders, who once coached Joey Barton, said 20 of his club’s 53 teams had so far signed up to the boycott.
In a rallying call to junior teams across the north west he said: “I think the support has been immense in such a short period of time with loads of obstacles in the way. This is for the right reasons, this is for the future of grass roots junior football.”
The movement against the proposed pitch fee hikes has gathered significant momentum in recent weeks with support being sent from as far away as Australia.
A petition calling on Sefton council to “shelve any proposed plans on the extortionate increases to pitch fees for local junior and amateur football clubs” has also attracted 700 signatures so far.
A mass demonstration will be held by junior teams against the rises at Buckley Hill playing fields, Netherton, at 10am on Sunday. For more details email Kenny at: firstname.lastname@example.org