HUNDREDS of young footballers have vowed to continue their fight against rising fees and lack of investment after they were handed a bill for over £5,000 – more than double the cost of the previous year.
Representatives of the Bootle, Litherland and Netherton Junior Football League (BJFL) revealed the extent of the costs being demanded by Sefton Council after showing the Crosby Herald an invoice for £5,320 for the use of pitches at Buckley Hill in Netherton. A similar invoice for the previous year is for just £2,015.
Players from the league joined footballers from across Merseyside last weekend in taking part in a boycott of fixtures as part of the national Save Grassroots Football campaign which is attempting to force a parliament debate on the issue via an e-petition on direct.gov.uk.
BJFL’s secretary Colin Chadd said: “The council sent us an email last year to have a meeting about what they can do about grass roots football. They assured us there would be no pitch fees increase this season and the next thing is we get this bill.
“We have always just been billed for the pitches we’ve used but now the structure has been changed to charge per team per game but it doesn’t cost more to maintain the pitch if there’s one game or five games on it.
“They are not getting the money – it’s as simple as that – because we can’t afford it.”
The invoice for the pitches was sent by Brian Metcalfe of the Crosby and District Football League, who acts as the council’s managing agent.
Mr Metcalfe said: “Over the years we have always charged by the pitch and not by each team which uses it which was a mistake on my part.
“Utilities fees have been passed on to me on top of the pitch fees which come to £19,500 so I have to recoup the money but I have kept it as low as I can and I’ll be lucky if we can break even.”
A spokesman for Sefton Council said: “Last year it was decided that junior pitch fees would not be increased by us and only a small inflationary rise will be included for 2014/15.ŠThis bill was sent directly by the managing agents, Crosby and District Football League, and it is up to them how they apportion the overall fees for use of the pitches at Buckley Hill.
“Meetings are planned with the local football leagues and we are happy to help them try to resolve this.”
Sefton Council leader, Cllr Peter Dowd added: “We are as committed to grassroots football as we can possibly be given the financial circumstances.
“We have had millions of pounds cut from our day to day budget and our capital budget which would be used to fund facilities so we have to prioritise our expenditure as best we can.”