Supporters have have rallied round to back a grassroots football club in a dispute with council chiefs.
South Tyneside Football Trust says its future is under threat after South Tyneside Council pulled out of a deal which saw the group share profits from an all-weather pitch at Monkton Stadium, in Jarrow.
A petition, calling on the council to change its decision, already has more than 700 signatures.
The club laid the all-weather pitch 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.
The rest of the £160,000 came from South Tyneside Council, waste management companies Biffa and Sita, and contributions from local businesses and boys’ football clubs.
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, 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, from Hedworthfield, Jarrow, said: “Someone started this petition and posted it on Facebook and it’s great to see that it’s already got 727 signatures.
“A lot of people have been leaving comments of support saying that they’ve used the pitch and this petition is all about the fact that the club will end up folding through the council’s actions.”
He added: “These are people who contributed towards having this pitch built by making a donation or doing something to raise money.”
South Tyneside Council says the trust has no strategic or operational influence over the facility or entitlement to income generated from it.
Mr Millward added: “The support we’ve had has been fantastic.
“We’re a charity that does a lot for grassroots football and it would be a travesty is we closed down.”
A South Tyneside Council spokesman 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. The trust only delivers one session a week from Monkton Stadium for elite trialists, a booking which it has chosen to cancel.
“All other pitch use, including junior leagues and general bookings made by the public will continue to operate as normal.”
l To sign the petition, go to www.change.org and search for ‘Grassroots football under threat’.