Ajay Matthews from Netherton Pumas at the pitch protest
HUNDREDS of junior footballers boycotted matches across Sefton in a battle over council plans to increase pitch fees.
Sefton council has proposed putting up annual fees for under-11s from £180 per season to around £600 per season as it attempts to make budget savings.
But the move has been met with anger and dismay by clubs, who say the new fees would be difficult for some families to afford.
The price hike only affects those in the Sefton area. But yesterday (December 9) clubs from across Merseyside came out in force to show their opposition to the plan.
At least 8,500 children gathered at Buckley Hill playing fields, in Netherton, to protest about the council pitch fee rises. Kenny Saunders, a coach at Woolton FC, in Liverpool, who organised the demonstration, said: "This is a disgrace. A rise of 300% must not happen and it’s not going to happen.
"I am absolutely disgusted at what they are trying to do. It’s important to get kids involved."I have had to apologise to 9,000 children who haven’t played this morning because I’ve stopped them.
"But it was the only thing I could do to get across to people up and down the country what’s happening.
"Grassroots football will be finished.
"People like myself who have been coaching 30 years will walk away from football, because I’m not prepared to say to people before they can play they have to hand over £100.
"I honestly believe children should be able to play football for no cost whatsoever."
Mr Saunders who is passionate about keeping football free for children says premiership football clubs should have a hand in keeping the sport alive at the grassroots level by investing in the game.
He also said government officials should be encouraging young sport. He said "This is where council’s and the government need to step in and support us. They need to see they’re getting away from the X-box, away from drugs and gangs. This is the big society and we’re not being backed by the government or local authorities or the County FA. We were on our own today."
Earlier, Alice Sumner, of Hesketh Colts JFC, said: "I understand there’s got to be an increase. I’m expecting one, but not to the degree they are threatening. We’re all going to stand up and fight it."
Sefton council is urging people to go onto its website and have their say on the pitch fee rise proposal.
The consultation on the plans runs throughout December and a decision on the plans will be made next month.