BY LAURA DICKINSON
In the face of competition from for-profit sports groups, a local community football project for faces a big hike in hire costs for local sports facilities.
The St Matthew’s Project, a club for youngsters from the St Matthew’s, Tulse Hill and St Martin’s Estates in Brixton, was informed that the cost for hiring the football pitch at the Evelyn Grace Academy on Shakespeare Road will rise from £30 to £70 per hour, a 130% increase.
Lee Dema, founder of St Matthew’s Project, was told that the reason for the hike is to “maximise revenue” and look after the facilities.
St. Matthew’s has used the pitches at Evelyn Grace Academy for some time now and Dema asked why the club has been charged £30 an hour to-date if that hasn’t been enough to look after the pitches.
The pitches at Evelyn Grace are also used by Go Mammoth, a company that organises sports leagues and fitness classes for adults across London. With companies like Go Mammoth able to pay the increased hire costs for the pitches, community sports projects like St. Matthew’s are in a tough position.
St. Matthew’s also uses the pitches at Ferndale Community Sports Centre for training but can only book the facilities until 6.30pm on a weekday. “Ideally, explains Lee, we’d like to book the facilities from 5 to 7pm but TopCorner have block booked the pitches.”
Evelyn Grace and Ferndale have the only floodlit pitches in the area. “If we can’t use Ferndale or Evelyn Grace, that basically means that we can’t train in winter,” says Lee.
Councillor Sally Prentice has informed the team at St. Matthew’s that she is looking into the matter and Lambeth Council are set to have a meeting with Greenwich Leisure to look at the issue long-term.
“There has to be a better corporate and community balance”, argues Lee.
Read Laura’s feature on 10 years of success for the St Matthews Project here.