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Totton & Eling Town Council bans youth teams from AFC Totton and Totton & Eling FC using Testwood recreation ground





HUNDREDS of young footballers have been left with nowhere to train after a town council in the New Forest kicked them off the local rec.

Members of the youth teams at AFC Totton and Totton & Eling FC regularly use the pitches at Testwood recreation ground on Salisbury Road to hold their weekly training sessions.

However, teams training there last Wednesday evening were approached by a warden for Totton and Eling Town Council, who ordered them to leave.

Youth teams can no longer use the recreation ground (picture: istock/kali9)
Youth teams can no longer use the recreation ground (picture: istock/kali9)

Totton & Eling’s girls football youth secretary Mike Minnock told the A&T he had been made aware by another coach of the incident.

He said the warden had informed the coach he would call the police and took pictures of the children – which he added “did not go down well”.

“[He] was not clear on the reasoning. Firstly it was liability, then it was a public space, and then upkeep.

“He said bookings were required – I have lived here a long time and not ever been aware of bookings.”

He added: “I have been on the website to try to see how much, etc, so we can keep going, but there is no facility to actually book. Also, if we do book, then facilities like toilets need to be open and the ground maintained.”

Mike said he felt the wider issue was the council failing to engage with the area’s youngsters to provide facilities and support them.

He added: “We need to keep kids engaged in sport. The benefits to them and the community are clear. My club is a non-profit club and led by a group of volunteers who give a lot of time and effort to ensure kids have opportunities and more importantly fun.

“I feel very let down regardless of the pitch situation. We now have lots of teams proud to be associated with Totton scrambling to look for facilities [elsewhere] and that’s a shame.”

Testwood recreation ground (picture: Google)
Testwood recreation ground (picture: Google)

Dan Woodnutt, vice-chair of youth teams at AFC Totton, said more than 150 youngsters from the club would be affected by the council’s decision.

He said: “I have been forced to cancel all training on the rec and try to find alternative venues. It affects around 10 of our teams who have already been, and were, planning to continue to train there over the summer.

“As a result, the kids won’t get to train, play football, see their friends and ultimately live a healthier lifestyle.”

The council’s clerk and CEO, Susan Cutler, told the A&T: “Whilst implementing investigations following a complaint by a member of the public, it has become apparent that some unlicensed organised activities are operating on the town council’s recreational ground areas.

The youth teams had been using the recreation ground to train (picture: stock image)
The youth teams had been using the recreation ground to train (picture: stock image)

“It is the council’s responsibility to check that organisers are operating in an appropriate manner and that all suitable health and safety regulations, together with ensuring risk assessment and liability documentation, are in place and adhered to.”

She added: “We continue to support and encourage those who wish to use the facilities appropriately and have a duty to ensure organised activities on the town council’s land are licensed and do not unfairly disrupt or impede other users.”

The council would be in contact with the clubs to advise them of the licence application process, she explained.

She added: “All requests received for organised use of land owned by the town council are considered on an individual basis.”

Cllr Caroline Rackham, chair of the town council, added: “We want everyone to be able to use the recreation grounds, so we ask companies and organised groups to apply to use [them] so we can check that everyone gets a chance and also that the organisers are keeping everyone safe. Of course we want children to be able to play football together.”



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