Sweeping changes as football caretaker loses job at Bradeley Football Development Centre
SUNDAY league football teams are crying foul over the removal of a caretaker service from their hired pitches.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has told the five Coors League clubs they will assume responsibility for security and cleaning at Bradeley Football Development Centre.
The authority had previously paid for a caretaker to look after the Chell Heath Lane ground's pavilion during matches on Saturdays and Sundays.
But this service has been withdrawn at weekends as part of council cuts.
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The teams, which each pay £860 a season to hire a pitch, will now be responsible for locking and unlocking the pavilion's doors, and ensuring it's clean.
Adrian Foster, secretary and goalkeeper of Stoke-based Staff of Life, said the teams felt they had been 'bullied' into accepting the council's decision.
He said: "There hasn't really been any consultation. They have just told us, half-way through a season, that there will no longer be a caretaker at Bradeley.
"We understand that the council needs to save money. If they had come to us before the start of the season and explained that if we wanted the caretaker service to continue we would have to pay a bit extra, then we could have come to an arrangement.
"This is only going to save the council £1,000 a year anyway."
The other Coors League teams which play home matches at Bradeley are Brown Edge, Miners Arms, Birches Head Hotel and Golden Cup.
A Saturday team, a women's team and an under-17s team are also based there.
Bradeley is the only council-owned football facility in the city rated 'A1', for the quality of its pitches and changing rooms. This means teams pay considerably more to hire a pitch for a season than at other, lower rated grounds.
But Mr Foster said the caretaker service was a major factor in the premium price.
He added: "The changing facilities are quite good, but no better than those at Fenton Park, which are brand new.
"But Bradeley did have a caretaker, which the other pitches didn't. That is what made it worth the price, and now that's been taken away."
Bob Williams, secretary of the Miners Arms, at Milton, believes the teams should be entitled to a partial refund, due to the change in the hire arrangement.
He said: "We did ask if we would get some money back, but the council said no. It was a good system before. You didn't need to worry about anything because there was a caretaker there.
"But now, for teams like Staff of Life, it will be difficult for Adrian to go and unlock the doors if there's an injury or something, because he's a player as well."
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is having to make £21 million of savings in the coming financial year.
Councillor Mark Meredith, Stoke-on-Trent City Council's cabinet member for Economic Development, Culture and Sport, said: "A part-time caretaker at the centre has taken voluntary redundancy under the restructure of Sport and Leisure Services, as part of the city council's budget saving process.
"The intention is to give each team a key, who will then nominate a dedicated key holder. The first team on site will open up the centre and the last team to leave will be responsible for locking up. This system is already in place at similar facilities in the city and works relatively smoothly.
"A cleaner will attend the centre after each weekend's matches, but we will be asking teams to help by continuing to tidy up after themselves once they have finished their use.".