Fever pitch

John Cooper next to the changing rooms at Dodds Field, Seaton Carew
John Cooper next to the changing rooms at Dodds Field, Seaton Carew

A GRASSROOTS football official fears some teams could fold after the council agreed increased fees to play on town pitches next season.

John Cooper, secretary of Hartlepool Tag Team Sunday Morning League, hit out at the rises saying some grounds’ changing rooms are “abysmal” and do not justify price hikes.

Hartlepool Borough Council agreed a range of charge and fee rises for its sports grounds, tourist attractions and community facilities in February.

From next season, Sunday morning sides will have to pay £340 per season to use pitches and their changing facilities.

At Dodds Field, in Seaton Carew, and Rift House, the cost for the pitch, changing and shared shower facilities will rise from £248.50.

But John, 66, hit out at the condition of the changing facilities of four metal cabins, with only one having showers.

He said: “People in 2011 don’t get changed in metal cabins like these. It’s abysmal.

“The council is comparing the town’s prices with those of Middlesbrough and Stockton and Sheffield, but their facilities are far superior to ours.

“We’re not getting anything extra at all. A lot of teams could go to the wall because of this, there’s no two ways about it.”

Hundreds of amateur footballers play every Sunday morning on grounds at Seaton Carew, Rift House, Grayfields, and King George V, in West View.

John added there is often not enough changing rooms at the other grounds for all the teams that use them.

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman accepted more work was needed to improve some changing facilities, but said the council needed to work with clubs to access funding.

A council spokesman said: “It is very important to point out that the fees charged by this authority have always been substantially lower than those levied by others across the region, and that even with these increases, comparable costs are still, on average, half that applied by our neighbours.

“It is also worth noting that in Hartlepool a season-long hire gives teams access to a pitch for approximately 20 matches, compared to just 10 matches in some other authority areas.

“In terms of the changing facilities, the council does use its limited resources as best it can.

“Significant investment has been made at King George V, Grayfields and at Rift House ‘Rec’, the latter in partnership with Hartlepool College of Further Education.

“However, we acknowledge that more work is required and we are keen to develop further partnerships, possibly with football clubs themselves, that might help us to access funding in the future.”