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Football clubs hit by hike in fees

Wednesday, 11 October 2023 08:26

By Guy Henderson, local democracy reporter

Newton Rovers at Bakers Park, Newton Abbot (Image: Newton Rovers)

'We can't carry on like this'

The chairman of a Newton Abbot football club says similar ones are folding because Teignbridge Council keeps putting up the cost of hiring pitches.

Newton Rovers pays more than £80 a match to play on Bakers Park, yet Steve Down, who heads the club, still has to clear dog mess off the pitch before kick-off.

The council says it has to raise fees to make ends meet as the government cuts support, but local football clubs may be able to get help.

Mr  Down, who had to repair holes in the penalty area before the referee would allow last week’s home match to start, says charging more than £2,000 to hire the pitch every season is too much.

The council recently raised hundreds of its fees for the second time this year, claiming it is the only way to raise enough money to maintain vital services as government support for local councils is slashed.

The football pitch and changing rooms fee for clubs has gone up from £74.80 to £81.50 this month. A year ago it cost £71.

Local councils say the government has cut hundreds of millions of pounds from their funding in the last decade, forcing them to raise money locally instead.

Teignbridge Council’s deputy leader Richard Keeling (Lib Dem, Chudleigh) said raising the fees again for pitches, car parks and other services had been one of the hardest decisions he had made.

But he claims the council remains committed to backing grassroots sport and that Newton Rovers may be able to apply for help.

Mr Down, who has been involved with Newton Rovers for more than 40 years, said sponsorship helps, but players still have to pay more to play. The club runs two teams in the South Devon League.

New changing rooms have been built at Bakers Park, but  Mr Down says there isn’t enough room for all the teams that need to use them.

“There’s only ourselves and Newton 66 left using council pitches in Newton Abbot,” he said. “Clubs are just folding because they can’t carry on like this.”

Teignbridge Council did not raise fees to join its leisure centres in the latest round of increases, and is working on a project to improve tennis courts.

“We are supporting grassroots sport,” said Cllr Keeling. “We only raised fees as a last resort to make sure we get the income we need.

“Councils like ours have been underfunded year in, year out by central government to the tune of millions of pounds. We can’t keep looking to council tax as the way of raising revenue.”

He invited Mr Down to get in touch to discuss the club’s problems.

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