Sports clubs across the county are being urged to join forces in a bid to oppose Carmarthenshire county council’s plans to raise the cost of hiring pitches by – in some cases – more than 2,000 percent.
In an open letter to Carmarthenshire’s clubs, Amman valley football stalwart Eifion Rogers is calling on representatives from the 68 clubs affected by the price rises to contact him and formulate a plan to assist clubs which – in some cases – could otherwise face closure.
As part of its bid to reduce spiralling costs, the local authority is set to raise the costs of using a cricket pitch from £28 currently to £590 for the 2016/17 season.
Football and rugby clubs will also see prices soar – from £49 to £235.
The costs for children playing rugby will rise from £25 to £95 while a junior cricket pitch will go from £18.50 to £110.
Charges will also soar for using pitches for training sessions and many clubs have said they simply cannot fund the rise.
Tumble RFC told the Guardian that to maintain its current usage of its pitch will see its annual costs rise to almost £22,000.
“No amateur club can afford to sustain those kinds of costs,” said club spokesman Steve Lewis.
In his letter, Mr Rogers slams the rise in light of the promised Olympic Legacy, which it was said would help fund grassroots sport for a generation.
“We were promised a legacy that would make us fitter and healthier, with greater emphasis placed on the development of our sports at amateur level,” he wrote.
“This has simply not happened. We are now worse off than before they began.
“Professional sport simply cannot flourish if the grassroots levels are not supported appropriately. Funding is essential to create the opportunities necessary to develop the sporting stars of tomorrow.”
Mr Rogers also drew a comparison between the continued use of public money to support and fund the Scarlets while amateur sport suffers.
“If Carmarthenshire county council really does need to save £30million, how on earth can councillors justify the public money spent on the Scarlets?” he asked.
“If the council supported sport as they claim why are they then asking clubs to take over facilities?
“In reality each club will now find itself at a crossroad: Either they will have to take over a facility they probably can’t afford, or they will have to face the stark reality that their club will have to fold.
“I was truly saddened to read the plight of Tumble RFC in a recent local article.”
Mr Rogers claimed the council’s plan would hurt not just the amateur sportsmen of today, but the nation as a whole.
“Wales as a country is light years behind many of our European counterparts when it comes to sporting facilities and standards of play.
“It is my great fear that if these measures are implemented we will fall yet further behind and it does not appear that there will be any measures to rectify this dire situation in the near future.”
Leader of the council, Cllr Kevin Madge, said: “We value the importance of sport for people of all ages, and our support for community sport should not be doubted. However, we are facing our toughest budget yet, and we simply cannot afford to continue subsidising clubs to pay their maintenance fees. Whilst being mindful that over 70 clubs operate on their own, with no taxpayer subsidy, we want to make things fair for everyone and give more control to clubs at community level. Many clubs, and town and community councils, have met with our officers and we welcome their expressions of interest. I’m confident that if we work together we can protect and develop community sport for future generations.”