Recently a lot of people have been reacting on Twitter to news that the City Council is introducing charges for children’s football leagues to play on our fields. As we all know, Twitter is a great platform for communication but it can also be a hindrance. So I would like to clear a few things up.
Soon I will be announcing a significant investment into the football pitches around Liverpool which will include new pitches, changing room facilities and ensuring that we maintain top class playing surfaces. I will be able to do this using a capital receipt from a land sale. I am fully aware of how poor our pitches and facilities are and that is why I am looking for ways of investing in the current ones and creating new ones. It is not rocket science to see and understand the benefits of people, especially our youngsters, playing football and others sports.
So, I would like to announce that I will not be introducing charges for junior football.
As a passionate football supporter, I am a huge believer in grassroots football. As a dad and a granddad I have always encouraged football from a young age. I have watched my sons and my grandson kick a ball about in a field and play in the same Junior Football Leagues as others. I have stood watching them with pride. I understand its benefit to the game as well as exercise and I think it is important to support and encourage that.
The fact is this City is facing its biggest cuts and most challenging time in its entire history. Money we did have has been taken away from us. Services and facilities we could once offer for free are being taken away. This isn’t anything to do with me or any councillors in the city, this is simply down to central Government – The Tories and the Lib Dems who have hit us hard with devastating cuts.
We are currently spending £1.2m a year to run and maintain football pitches across the City. The average cost of running a pitch is £35,000 a year. This includes grass cutting, litter picking, pitch markings, hedge cuttings, pitch renovation and improvement programmes – all of which are essential in making the facilities appropriate for use. The budget for sport and outdoor recreation service has been slashed by half. So that means that we have half the money to do the same job. That is just not possible. It is like trying to do your weekly shop, getting all the same stuff but with half the money. You can’t spend what you haven’t got. This is the damage which has been implemented by the Government.
So as a result, we need to look at alternatives in order to ensure that we do not have to charge junior sports teams for using our facilities. I intend to work with campaign groups such as ‘Save Grass Roots Football’ to encourage the football clubs, the FA and others to help. As it stands, we are one of very few authorities who don’t charge for use of football fields. For the majority of others, it is common practise.
Football is as important to me as it is to every other parent, grandparent or carer whose children play as part of a team. Ensuring that our children continue to play and keep fit is a top priority for me. Let’s keep together, work together and stand together.