The future of amateur football in Leeds is on the line as struggling youngsters and their clubs face a huge rise in council pitch fees.
Youth league officials have today warned that the network of teams which Leeds has proudly boasted for decades is in serious jeopardy of disappearing.
Local club bosses say more and more teams are going out of existence as they struggle to meet the costs of playing on council-owned pitches for the new season.
And they say the hike in pitch and changing room charges is pushing people out of the sport.
Brian Radcliffe, League Secretary of the city’s Red Triangle League, which was formed in 1920, said teams are charged per team fielded and face a charge of £506 for a pitch and £338 for dressing rooms for this season – a rise of around 15 per cent on last season.
He told the YEP: “It’s more expensive than ever to keep a football team going these days – you have to pay for kits and all players have to have insurance for starters. This fees rise might not seem like a lot of money, but we’re supposed to be encouraging younger people to take part in sport and it just doesn’t seem like that’s the case when we’re being asked to pay so much more.”
Back in the 1960s, the Red Triangle had around 240 teams. Today they have just 26, with eleven dropping out this season - Mr Radcliffe says primarily due to a lack of money available to meet their costs.
He said: “The numbers are dropping and we’ve had one team that won their league last season and have dropped out this season because of a lack of funds.
“And, if more and more teams are dropping out, that means less teams in the leagues which means less games. This season we have one league that has eight teams and, if they get knocked out of cups early, it can work out at around £100 a game for them.”
A spokesman for Leeds City Council told the YEP: “We do not in any way want to discourage local football clubs from playing. The increase in pitch hire is in the context of increased costs of provision and even after these charges have been implemented the level of subsidy will be in excess of 70 per cent of overall pitch maintenance costs. The pitch hire cost per player per week for the 2011/12 season is estimated at £1.39, which is an increase of 19p per player per game compared to the 2010/11 season. Changing room hire has increased by three per cent, which is less than both government measures of inflation and the retail price index (RPI).”
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