Croydon’s Olympic “legacy”? Pricing kids off the pitches

Less than a month after the end of the London Olympic Games, which had as one of its principle objectives to get more youngsters playing sport regularly, and a local youth football and netball league is facing financial hardship because of charges of thousands of pounds from Croydon Council, which is even banning small children from using a park building to shelter from the winter weather.

Selsdon Little Leaguers: Croydon Council could be pricing them off the park

Thanks to the tireless work of parents and volunteers, Selsdon Little League has been offering organised sport to youngsters of all abilities, aged between seven and 14, for more than 20 years.

This season, Croydon Council has demanded that the organisers cough up £3,000 for use of the pitches at Sanderstead recreation ground – yet at the same time they are being denied use of common areas at the changing rooms pavilion where the children and their parents often take shelter against the worst of the weather on winter Saturday mornings, and where the league sells teas, coffees and snacks, vital to raise funds for its activities.

Similar little leagues in nearby Raynes Park, Clapham, Morden, Mitcham, Colliers Wood and Wimbledon are not charged at all by their local councils.

The parents of the players are likely to fund the fees demanded by Croydon’s unsporting council, but they are very unhappy about the way they have been treated, and the ban from using the pavilion facilities.

“It seems strange in a year when ‘sport for all’ is being encouraged on all sides that our council appears to be hell-bent on making things as difficult as possible for a voluntary outfit that provides football and netball to hundreds of local children,” Mike Kindler, from South Croydon, one of the Selsdon Little League parents, told Inside Croydon.

The Little Leagues concept is the epitome of the Olympic sporting legacy aims, since the competitions are provided especially for those who get left out of school teams, yet still want to be able to take part in regular, competitive sports. The Little Leagues are recognised by national sports bodies the Football Association and All-England Netball Association. Of Selsdon Little League’s 28 football teams in action each week, six are girls’ teams.

But in an email from Croydon Council’s green spaces manager last month, the Selsdon Little League was told that, despite their organisation being charged thousands of pounds for providing organised sport for Croydon children, they would still be denied use of the pavilion facilities.

“Unfortunately, the answer to this is no,” the council officer wrote in reply to the league’s appeal to continue using the pavilion. “We are seeking alternative uses for this. The area that will be available to you is the changing rooms and toilet (external).”

Outside loos, eh? The real Olympic spirit. What would Lord Coe say?

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1 Response to Croydon’s Olympic “legacy”? Pricing kids off the pitches

  1. Can we please stop being naive.
    Free-spending Croydon Council has nothing specifically against little leaguers. It simply sees their wish to use a public recreation ground as an asset to be exploited.
    The council is refusing access to the pavilion for a similar reason – it thinks it can raise extra money by letting the space to a commercial operation.
    No doubt middle managers throughout the council are being put under considerable pressure to generate income from every possible source.
    The local authority will blame central government for the price hike, but there is plenty the council could do to tighten its own purse-strings. Unfortunately, it prefers to tax recreation.
    If little leaguers’ parents want the policy changed they will need to put pressure on elected representatives, maybe by campaigning for a change of political control at the next council election.

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