AMATEUR football and rugby clubs in Leeds have suffered a financial blow as they prepare to kick off the new season.
City council bosses have approved a three per cent rise in the cost of using local authority-owned pitches, it was confirmed today.
The rise means hiring a football or rugby pitch for the duration of the 2012-13 season will now set back an adult team £521.
Junior sides, meanwhile, will have to fork out £191 for the season.
Teams wanting to book a pitch on a one-off basis will be charged £62 adult rate and £27 junior rate.
The cost of hiring changing room facilities from the council is also rising by three per cent.
Adult and junior sides will now have to pay £348 and £232 per season respectively for use of changing accommodation.
The rises are higher than last month’s 2.6 per cent rate of inflation in the UK.
Council bosses today defended the decision to introduce the new fees.
A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “We’re keen to encourage sports and community groups to make use of our facilities for the health and social benefits they bring.
“While we don’t want to discourage local clubs or groups from playing in any way, we’ve had to increase hire prices due to the increased costs of provision. The increase equates to 4p per player per game.
“Even after these charges have been implemented, the level of subsidy for the council will be in excess of 70 per cent of the overall pitch maintenance costs.”
One local football competition, the Leeds Red Triangle league, boasted as many as 240 teams back in the 1960s. This season, however, it is expecting to have just 20.
Red Triangle chairman Steve Firth said: “When you are starting a new football team, these days there are a lot of expenses to take into account and higher pitch fees obviously don’t help.
“Pubs and clubs closing is another factor. They used to provide financial support to a lot of teams, but without them it’s the players who tend to have to come up with the money.”
Most of Leeds’s amateur football leagues start their 2012-13 fixtures this weekend.
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