FOOTBALL clubs across Flintshire could be facing a financial crisis after council bosses imposed a massive rent hike.
Adult teams playing on council-owned land have been hit with a 50 per cent pitch rent increase for the forthcoming season.
Clubs have seen their fees soar from £194 to £320 per season, which equates to £30 per match compared to £20.40 last season.
Bobby Hunter, secretary of FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay, says he had no warning and is furious.
He told the Leader: “I imagine this is going to affect a lot of clubs and it’s going to be a struggle.
“We already have to pay for a lot of things such as washing the kits and hiring the pitches so to have one of our main costs almost doubled is not very nice.
“Money is very hard to come by in this day and age and we are going to have a lot more fundraising to do. We are not very happy about it.”
FC Nomads, who will play in the Clwyd League Division One this season, have been playing at Wepre Park since the club was set up in 2009.
Other clubs affected by the rent hike include Connah’s Quay Tigers who play at the Navy Club pitch in Shotton and Flint Mountain, who play at Flint High School.
Now councillors Bernie Attridge and Aaron Shotton say they will fight the rises.
Cllr Attridge said: “I find it absolutely scandalous that the cost can be increased like this with out any prior warning. We are talking about amateur football teams here.
They have to fundraise to make money and I think this is going to put some of them off.
“I think it’s very crafty and underhand to do this so close to the start of the season. I’m going to fight this as hard as I can to get the decision reversed.”
Cllr Shotton said he feared for the future of the affected clubs.
He said: “Local football clubs provide a real service to communities across
Flintshire, particularly youth football teams. The increase in fees and charges by the leisure department is absolutely scandalous and I would urge the executive member Cllr Dennis Hutchinson to reverse the decision before football clubs collapse due to the additional financial burden.”
Mike Hornby, head of leisure services at the council, explained that clubs were paying discounted fees last year.
He said: “It is a significant increase, however in 2009/10 the adult/senior team fee price was reduced to half that charged for the 2008/09 season. This season’s fees have therefore been restored to 2008 levels for adults/senior teams.”
But Mr Hunter said he was not aware they had paid a reduced rate last year.
“They say that we only paid half the year before, but no-one told me that,” he said.
Mr Hornby added: “The fees are approved by the executive member and the director of lifelong learning early in the new year and notification of the fees level is provided to our customers at least one month before April 1 by placing notices in all our leisure centres.
“However, it is possible that some football clubs at senior level did not become aware of the increases until they renewed their pitch allocations in June/July 2010 and I do apologise for any inconvenience or concern that they have experienced.
“Should any teams be experiencing any difficulties in meeting the new fees I will of course be pleased to meet with their representatives to provide what advice and assistance I can.”
Pitch charges for junior teams are currently free.
See full story in the Leader