Grassroots football under threat as council pulls plug on pitch deal

Alan Millward of South Tyneside Football Trust is angry over Council with 3G pitch at Monkton Stadium
Alan Millward of South Tyneside Football Trust is angry over Council with 3G pitch at Monkton Stadium

A football trust that runs clubs and matches for hundreds of children in South Tyneside says it is under threat after being told a pitch deal it had with council bosses is being scrapped.

South Tyneside Football Trust created an all weather pitch at Monkton Stadium, in Jarrow, after a public appeal - backed by the Gazette - raised £50,000 and, since 2011 it has split the profits from the venture with South Tyneside Council.

Alan Millward of South Tyneside Football Trust is angry over Council with 3G pitch at Monkton Stadium

Alan Millward of South Tyneside Football Trust is angry over Council with 3G pitch at Monkton Stadium

The rest of the £160,000 came from South Tyneside Council, waste management companies Biff and Sita, and contributions from local businesses and boys’ football clubs.

But the local authority has now told the Trust’s manager, Alan Millward, that they will no longer be getting this cash.

Mr Millward says that he was told by the council that the agreement was not legal and that the Trust would no longer receive any profits from the 3G pitch and that they would have to pay to use it just like anyone else.

Mr Millward said: “It was the council that came up with this 50/50 agreement and I signed it, but now they’re saying it isn’t legal and the Trust is losing out. I’m absolutely fuming about it.”

It was the council that came up with this 50/50 agreement and I signed it, but now they’re saying it isn’t legal and the Trust is losing out. I’m absolutely fuming about it.

Alan Millward, South Tyneside Football Trust

South Tyneside Council say the Trust has no strategic or operational influence over the facility or entitlement to income generated from it.

Mr Millward said: “The Trust always paid the full price every time it used the pitch, but because we would get half of the profits back at the end of the year, we were only really paying about half.

“That money is the only income the Trust has, except for a burger van we run on a Saturday, and without it, we won’t be able to continue.”

The South Tyneside Football Trust was set up as a registered charity in 2004 to run the junior football league, which it established in 1997.

Alan Millward, of South Tyneside Football Trust, when the 3G pitch opened in 2011.

Alan Millward, of South Tyneside Football Trust, when the 3G pitch opened in 2011.

It has won numerous awards for its work in the community.

Over the years, it has run the junior league, tots coaching, a ‘little dribblers’ class, and junior and adult disability football sessions, using the facilities at Monkton Stadium.

Mr Millward added: “The council said they’d looked through the agreement and one of their previous employees had gone beyond his station and that the council, who lease from the Church Commission, aren’t allowed to bring in a third party.

“They said we were no longer going to get any profit share from the pitch and that we’d be treated as a regular customer and we’d have to pay the same rates.”

Mr Millward is now worried that the Trust could go bust and no longer be able to offer the activities that it does for young people in the borough.

“The council are now saying it’s their pitch and I think it’s disgusting. How could they do that?

“They’re robbing the grassroots community because they contributed to getting this pitch.”

A South Tyneside Council spokesperson said: “South Tyneside Football Trust is a valued customer of Monkton Stadium and is welcome to continue delivering sessions on the 3G pitch.

“As the 3G pitch is owned by the council, the Trust has no strategic or operational influence over the facility nor has it any legal rights or entitlement to income generated from the use of the pitch.

“We have given advice and support to the Trust and continue our discussions on how to move this forward. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

The Church Commission did not wish to comment.