In response to the announcement from the University of Central Lancashire dated the 12th October 2020.
We are devastated to find that a decision by UCLan has been made to withdraw the use of grass pitch facilities for clubs in the community at the Sports Arena with immediate effect.
Following a sudden change of strategy, local clubs have now been forced to try find alternative facilities. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the clubs using the facilities were not given the courtesy of reasonable notice and as such have not been able to make appropriate arrangements for the coming season.
The City of Preston and its sporting community who have supported the expansion of the university and its associated facilities for more than 20-years have now been cast aside. Despite previous funding from the National Lottery, Sport England and the Football Foundation for community use, the university have decided this is no longer a viable option.
At a time when grassroots football and its volunteers are under immense pressure due to the current Covid-19 situation, any further setbacks such as this, will have a detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of these hard-working individuals.
The announcement has the potential to damage the grassroots game and alter the face of junior, youth, girl’s, and open age football across the city for years to come. In total there are over 25 clubs and more than 1000 participants that the new strategy will impact. The teams concerned have made financial commitments to their sponsors and players for the forthcoming season. Losing their pitches would leave them with nowhere to play, sponsors demanding refunds and long-established clubs having to fold.
We are aware a number of clubs have already paid for the hire of the pitches for this season but there was no consideration in terms of informing the clubs prior to accepting payment for the hire. This approach meant that the clubs were completely misled by the university into believing that they could play their matches at the Sports Arena as they have done for the last 20 years, the university knew full well that this was not the case.
The way this has been handled by the Vice Chancellors Group has been nothing short of appalling. They have given no consideration whatsoever as to the affect this will have on the wider Preston community. The detrimental impact within the local footballing community is immeasurable. The affected clubs were invited into the facility to provide an income but their loyalty over this time has been completely disregarded.
Having considered our position, we are calling on UCLan to reverse their decision and to allow the clubs to continue to utilise the facilities.
The above statement is issued on behalf of the following:
Central Lancs Junior Football League
Lancashire Sunday Football League
Mid Lancashire Football League
Mid Lancs Colts Junior Football League
Preston North End Womens Junior FC
West Lancashire Football League