Havering Council bans kids football in park

KILLJOY wardens from Havering Council gave children’s soccer training in Upminster Park the boot last weekend, claiming the teams are tearing up the grass.

Six youth sides use the park in Corbets Tey Road for practice – some for as long as eight years – but they have now been ordered to move on to fee-paying pitches.

Shocked under-15s manager Mark Jude said: “As a tax-paying member of this country I find it amazing to be told that I can no longer keep kids out of trouble and off the streets.

“I now need the permission of the council as to whether I use a public park.”

Around 60 youngsters between the ages seven and 16 use the area around the cricket green every Saturday in preparation for Sunday games in the Chelmsford, Barnes and Echo Leagues.

But the council said action had been taken due to the damage caused to the turf by studs, following the recent bad weather.

Allan Pearce, who has coached AFC Hornchurch under-17s for five years, said he was threatened with a fine if his team did not move on.

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“I could not believe what I was hearing,” he said. “Ever since I was a young kid we’ve been playing football in that park.

“It seems the authorities want children sitting around in front of the TV or hanging out in street corners. We were told there had been complaints.”

AFC Hornchurch chairman Colin McBride said the adult first team squad had been kicked off the grass the week before.

“We have got facilities we can use,” he said, “but I think it’s a sorry day when the kids’ teams are being ejected.”

A council spokesman said youngsters can use astroturf pitches instead – but these cost money to rent.

Dad Wally Chapman, whose son James plays in one of the under-15s side, said: “Money is tight for some of these lads as they already pay for the hire of football pitches, goals and referees when they play on a Sunday.”

He added: “My son’s team has been playing in the same spot, as have the other teams, for many years without interference.

“I’ve met many parents who are pleased their sons get out into the fresh air rather than sit in front of a computer or wander the street looking for something to do.

“Many of the managers are fathers, pleased to volunteer their time.

“The kids get a lot out of it – fitness, football skills, team bonding and spirit. It does not matter what creed, ethnicity or social background you come from.”

Cllr Andrew Curtin, cabinet member for towns and communities, with special responsibility for culture, said: “Playing football and using studs has been causing considerable damage to the grass and means that not everyone can enjoy our parks.

“There are all-weather pitches and other sites that these organised football teams can use.”

A spokesman added the council would “work with” the affected football teams to find free spaces.

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