Youth footballers fear being priced out of Hackney

Peter Blackwell (back left) and his team from ReachOut FC.

Peter Blackwell (back left) and his team from ReachOut FC. - Credit: Archant

Youth football teams fear they will be priced-out of playing in Hackney after the council cut its subsidy for their pitches.

Until now the playing grounds at Hackney Marshes have been used for free by young footballers on Saturdays – but Hackney Council now insists it can’t afford to continue subsidising the use of the pitches.

Pete Blackwell, a representative for the Hackney Football Partnership and the team secretary for ReachOut FC, says some teams they run will be dropped because of the charges.

The council is now demanding 50 per cent of the £82 cost of a pitch per match for next year and 75 per cent of the cost the following year, about £61.50.

Teams outside the league, which is also to be brought under the control of the council, will have to pay the full unsubsidised rates.

Mr Blackwell, 32, of Northwold Road, said: “We would have to drop teams. The boys don’t have enough money to pay those kind of prices and we can’t sustain that level of fundraising with that many teams to run.”

He added: “It’s really sad that only a year after the Olympics, the price of children’s football in Hackney is going up, not down.”

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Cllr Jonathan McShane, cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said: “The council provides a considerable subsidy for Hackney Marshes because we appreciate how important it is to the many groups who use it. However, like all areas of public spending, the budget is being squeezed.

“We will continue to provide a subsidy for the Youth League’s use of the Marshes but will ask for a phased contribution from the clubs from next season for the hire of pitches, so that we don’t have to make cuts to the maintenance and upkeep of the Marshes.

“With the continued subsidy for the next two years, the pitches remain excellent value compared with renting pitches elsewhere.

“We’re continuing to support the clubs with coaching courses, administering the league and providing medals and trophies. We will also work with the league to bring in external sponsorship and funding.”