Cut the grass not our funding: Footballers attack council over beleaguered Estover pitch
11:31 15 November 2012
DRASTIC cuts in council funding have forced footballers into holding whip-rounds to have the grass mowed at their beleaguered March pitch.
Estover Playing Field, which is leased by Estover Playing Field Association (EPFA), used to benefit from annual grants of up to £7,000 from Fenland District Council. This year, the council cut its funding to just £500.
The field, which is owned by Cambridgeshire County Council, is home to March Saracens Football Club and a youth side from March Soccer School.
Mick Jordan, chairman of March Saracens, said he was worried that the facility could be lost, leaving the teams with nowhere to play.
He said: “We had to have a whip-round to hire a mower for grass-cutting over the summer and now we’ve actually spent all our club funds on one.
“The council has forgotten us. You hear about £22,000 being spent on some railings for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Imagine what that money could have done for sport in March.
“It seems like they want Estover to go to ruin.”
Sue Clenshaw, secretary of EPFA for the last 14 years, said the council provided £3,500 last year, which was enough to run the field “on a shoestring”.
She said: “We don’t want to lose the field but on £500 we cannot manage.
“It would be awful if we didn’t have it but who knows what could happen in the future? We can’t operate with no money.
“We’re not asking for too much here. We don’t need a lovely new pavilion, we just want to keep the field and use it.”
A council spokesman said: “EPFA are one of 37 organisations that Fenland District Council were able to support through this year’s community grants process.
“This is a great example of the council supporting the community and voluntary sector organisations and making a positive difference to residents in Fenland.
“Unfortunately because of the financial challenges faced by all public sector organisations, we were not able to give every organisation what they requested in their submission.
“However, unlike many councils who do not offer any financial support for their local communities we are pleased that we have been able to financially support local organisations this year.”
The funding cuts come after a review commissioned by the county council and Cambridgeshire FA revealed that poor facilities were blighting football participation in March.
The report, which was published in August, said just 2.8 per cent of March’s population played football for the town’s clubs - well below the national average. It also branded Estover Playing Field an “area of concern”.
Estover Park was highlighted as a possible site for housing development earlier this year in the Fenland Communities Development Plan.
The proposals provoked a furious reaction from residents, with hundreds signing a petition calling on the district council to ditch the plan.