Leeds: ‘Pitch fees are forcing clubs out of football’

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High pitch fees are forcing more and more of the city’s amateur clubs out of the game, league bosses have warned.

And they say more sides are facing a battle to keep afloat as they struggle to meet a hike in the price of using council-owned pitched.

Brian Radcliffe, League Secretary of the city’s Red Triangle League told the YEP he had been contacted by four well-established league sides, who have been forced to pull out since the season began.

And Mr Radcliffe warned more sides could meet the same fate, with more getting in touch each week to say they are struggling.

He said: “Since the season started we’ve lost four teams and I know there’s lots more who are saying they can’t afford it. The difference between what we’re paying in Leeds and what they pay elsewhere is unfair and it’s going to have a massive impact.”

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In September, the YEP exclusively reported that bosses at the Red Triangle were worried a hike in pitch fees could spell disaster for the city’s proud amateur football heritage.

We highlighted the plight of Western Juniors FC, based in Harehills, who were battling to meet a £1,000 bill from council sports bosses.

Mr Radcliffe 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.

Back in the 1960s, the Red Triangle had around 240 teams. Today they have just 26.

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).”

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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