Friday, 21 January 2022

Sports club face higher fees to use village green

Sports club face higher fees to use village green

WOODCOTE’S cricket and football clubs are going to have to pay more to use the village green for matches.

The parish council, which owns the land, says it needs to raise the fees because it has to carry out extra grass cutting for the clubs.

Eight members of the clubs attended a council meeting after the minutes of the previous week’s budget meeting suggested the cricket club could be charged £50 per match and the football club £30 per match compared with £220 per year currently.

The minutes also stated that the cricket club should only be able to play on 10 Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season.

Sam Peates, who is chairman of the cricket club and president of the football club, told councillors: “The parish council has always seen its role as encouraging and promoting voluntary groups which organise formal sporting activities for young people.

“That is why it has only ever levied a donation on the sports clubs as opposed to a hire fee per match.

“A change to a charge per use and a massive increase would represent a double whammy because both clubs have grown to provide for the demand and interest of young people.

“The introduction of a second team for the cricket club next season will double the amount of matches and would double the amount of hiring fees.

“The sort of figures quoted in the minutes would represent an 800 per cent increase in what the cricket club would have to pay.

“Our match fees and annual subscriptions would have to be heavily increased and this would inevitably deter those young people.

“Such an increase would make the cricket club financially unviable and bring to an end a tradition of 141 years — and 115 years in the case of the football club.”

Mr Peates, who has been a member of both clubs for 46 years, added: “Only two world wars have caused the cessation of cricket and football on our green.”

He said the clubs accepted the hire charges had been too low for some time and would be happy to see them rise incrementally but remain as a single payment.

“Both clubs look after their own areas of the green and require little except a decent standard of grass cutting in season,” said Mr Peates.

“It is an undeniable fact that organised sport on the green draws local residents. Both clubs usually attract attendances of around 50 people, purely to spectate.

“When sport is played on the weekends, the green is alive with activity but almost deserted when there are no matches.

“We strongly challenge the argument that no other activity can take place when cricket is being played. It can and it does.

“Organised sport on the green is very important to the trade of the Red Lion pub. Apart from its considerable use by home and visiting teams, sport attracts people to the green, a considerable percentage of whom like to have a drink while they watch the matches. On Saturdays and Sundays, when there is no sport, the pub is far less busy, sometimes almost empty.”

Mr Peates added that there was a misconception that the cricket club was in a good financial position and then detailed its expenses, such as new balls and insurance.

Council chairman Malcolm Smith said there was no intention to charge the clubs per use and the figures had been produced for budgetary purposes and were not intended to be final.

However, the council had worked out that the clubs were currently paying less than £6 a fixture and felt this should be raised.

Councillor Smith said: “When cricket in particular is being played there is an impact on the car park.

“The car park isn’t just for the village green, it’s for the village hall and when events are on at the same time they’re losing parking spaces.

“I don’t think there’s any intention to reduce the number of fixtures that we allow the Woodcote team to play.”

Councillor Stuart Lawson said: “My concerns are primarily that the recreation ground is owned by the parish council for the benefit of the entire village.

“From what I’m hearing, you’re going to radically increase the number of fixtures played both on Saturday and Sunday. My concern is that the green is available, particularly during the six months of better weather, for the village to use freely on at least one day of the weekend. It is not a private cricket club.”

He said he didn’t want people to stop bringing their children to the green, walking their dogs or having a picnic due to their fear of flying cricket balls.

“I can’t see any consideration being given from your end, it’s all about the cricket club,” said Cllr Lawson. “The football club seems to be less of an issue.

“I’m far from against cricket — there’s nothing better than seeing the men in white out on the village green — but not all of the weekend every weekend of the spring, summer and autumn.”

Councillor Geoff Botting said: “I think the parish council has a role in supporting the recreation of everybody and that definitely includes the football and cricket clubs.

“It’s a huge green — there’s another part almost as big where people can exercise their dogs and walk around. I do not want to see any sudden movement in costs which would put the teams in jeopardy.”

Councillor Helen Booker said that a cricket match arguably took up more than one hectare of the three-hectare green because of the risk of flying cricket balls.

She said: “They’re hard balls and if you’ve got kids you’ll stay further away for fear of getting hit.”

Mr Peates said cricket had been played on most Saturdays and Sundays in the season for as long as he had been in the village to which Cllr Lawson replied that that didn’t necessarily make it right.

Cllr Botting said he had lived in the village for 44 years and had not heard any complaints from fellow residents about the loss of amenities because of the cricket club.

He added: “Quite the opposite, it’s one of those things that really enhances village life at the weekend.”

The council agreed to increase the sports clubs’ hire charges and to make a final decision on them after it has seen the cricket club’s books.

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