Sport clubs on brink as pitch hire prices soar

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HALF of Edinburgh's sports clubs have warned they are at risk of folding as they struggle to meet the rising cost of hiring out council facilities.

Some clubs have seen the cost of using school sports halls and pitches - which is set by the individual school and not on a city-wide basis - surge by more than 50 per cent in the last year alone.

And there are fears moves to standardise rates across the city will only see fees hiked again as the city council battles to tackle its 90 million blackhole.

A new survey has found that the vast majority of clubs say costs are problematic, while more than half say they are a "major problem".

Many clubs fear they could go to the wall, while others are scaling back the number of teams they run and having to charge more to take part.

The survey was carried out by council chiefs as part of the research into a city-wide strategy on pricing school facilities.

Hutchison Vale, one of the city's most successful young football clubs, had to axe three of its teams this season because of the increasing cost of using the pitches of schools including Tynecastle High, Firrhill High, Forrester High and Broomhouse.

The club currently pays around 40,000 per year to hire training facilities from the council.

Les Trotter, an official with Hutchison Vale, said: "The cost is astronomical. The amount that youth clubs charge kids is very small and we can't justify large amounts for training facilities. But if we don't pay they can't train.

"Last year we had to cut back on teams because there was not enough money and it's the same for other clubs."

It is estimated that more than two in every three of Edinburgh's 500 sports clubs use council facilities.

Councillor Alison Johnstone, education spokeswoman for the Green group on the city council and a qualified athletics coach who helps teach youngsters at the Edinburgh Athletics Club, said: "I'm sick and tired of hearing so much about us needing to cut down on obesity and encourage children to be active while increasing the cost of accessing sports facilities.

"It would be disastrous if clubs are forced to close."

Andy McSweeney, operations manager at Basketball Scotland, said: "Consistent feedback from our Edinburgh-based clubs is that the cost of school sports facilities is becoming more of a challenge each year, at a time when financial resources are stretched across the board."

Buckstone Youth Dance Group, which runs 45 dance classes a week for children aged 4-18, beat plans by Buckstone Primary to charge it 150 a night. It instead pays around 30 a night, except on Thursdays, when it costs 75. But Sara Love, the group's chair, said: "We pay a ridiculous amount. The council say they want people to be active but what are they doing about it?"

The new approach to school access by the council, which sport leader Deidre Brock said will be informed by the feedback from clubs, will include a standard approach to pricing for all its school sport facilities, with one option being for Edinburgh Leisure to take over the management of the facilities.

Cllr Marilyne MacLaren, the city's education leader, said: "Our strategy will help local communities get better access to school facilities all across the city. We are also looking at addressing the inconsistency in pricing which varies widely and we want to bring down high charges at the weekend."


Standard recommended rates for primary schools (although schools are able to decide their own rates):

Gym Hall Mon-Sat: 20 an hour, Sun: 39 an hour

Swimming pool Mon-Sat: 37.50 an hour, Sun: 75.50 an hour

Football pitch Mon-Sat: 48 for two hours, Sun: 72 for two hours

All weather pitch Mon-Sun: 56.50

Floodlighting Mon-Sun: 11.50