Sunday 16 February 2014

Rugby - Cheaper to play at Parc y Scarlets than in Tumble

A brief and well-deserved break from the scandals which have been reverberating around County Hall to look at what the council is doing to sport in the county.

Listeners to Friday's edition of Taro'r Post on Radio Cymru (available here for a few more days) heard how a number of rugby clubs in Carmarthenshire are very worried about the impact of massive increases in charges for the use council owned sports facilities.

Apart from giving young people an opportunity to keep fit and take part in a team sport, the small local clubs are where talent is nurtured and developed, and then fed into the regional and national game.

The programme concentrated on one club in particular in Tumble. Tumble RFC receives an annual grant of just over £3,000 from the WRU, and it has to rely on local sponsors to make up the difference between its income from the WRU and its costs. A spokesman for the club, Steve Evans, said that the club simply did not have the money to pay the proposed new charges.

For its part the council issued a reheated version of a statement put out recently in the name of the council leader, Kevin Madge, saying this was all about creating a level playing field and fairness. Under the community asset transfer scheme, communities were being empowered to take over the running of local facilities, etc., etc.

The spokesman for Tumble, who was clearly reluctant to get caught up in what he called "the politics", gently took the council's claims apart. The community asset transfer scheme was not about transferring freeholds but leaseholds, and what the county council was proposing was for the local Community Council rather than the club to take out a lease. The leasehold on offer was just 21 years (compare that with the leaseholds of 150 years and 99 years awarded to the Scarlets and Towy Community Church respectively).

Another option would be for the club to carry on as at present, but to pay the true cost of maintaining the facility. The club has asked the council to provide a breakdown of the costs, but it has not had an answer, and the same situation is facing other users of the park, including soccer and bowls.

It was clear from the interview that the club had done its homework. They had even found out that it would be cheaper for the club to move out and use the facilities in Parc y Scarlets. Whereas the club will be asked to pay around £500 a week to the council, they could use the Scarlets training facilities for just £90.

The council would no doubt be delighted if all the village clubs upped sticks and relocated to Parc y Scarlets, but that would not be practical or feasible, and the huge discrepancy in costs speaks volumes.

The local soccer club is also being asked to pay £500 a week for the use of the park, and Mr Evans not unsurprisingly wondered whether it was really costing the county council £1,000 a week to maintain the grounds, and how it arrived at these figures.

While the council says that it is just bringing charges in line with what other councils are doing, Mr Evans said that the club had contacted other counties, and that they have different figures.

At the end of the interview the presenter, Garry Owen, summarised the costs. Currently, the club is paying £49 for a game and £29 per training session. This is set to rise to £235 for a game and £140 per training session. In the case of the junior team charges will rise from £23 to £95 per session.

Charges for a 40 week season for the junior team will therefore rise from £920 per year at present to £3,800 a year.

As Kevin Madge said, it's all about creating a level playing field.


Anonymous said...

In itself this is regrettable for all the obvious reasons. On the positive side, it will do much to raise awareness of CCC's shortcomings among people who don't usually take much interest in local politics, and make it much harder for Madge et al to get reelected when the time comes.

Catherine said...

That's a valid point Anon 10.46 but the important question is whether it will actually result in turning people into voters rather than apathetic "can't-be-bothered-there's-no-point"ers who won't exercise their right to get rid of these has-been local politicians.

In many ways, people who don't bother to vote in local or national elections have no right to complain when things happen that they don't like.

Anonymous said...

You've got to admire the brilliance of the Coalition's austerity policies. They have been sold on the basis of an overriding need to balance the books, we're all in this together, will lead to greater efficiencies guff.

But often it's Labour Councils which have to implement them. Yet the genius behind it all is that these Labour Councils adopt exactly the same kind of spin when trying to sell them to the public.

The playing field charges is just such a case in point. A disproportionate hike will be counter-productive, yet you'd think Kev and his pals were really just doing everyone a favour.

Anonymous said...

How many of the loans to Scarlets , Bowling alley and Garnant golf club have been paid off to date?(Or ever likely to be paid off) Hardly a fair playing field is it?

johnsouthwales said...

the £235 2016-17 fee is a freak of arithmatic. it does not cost £235 a week to maintain the pitch and even if you factor in the ground rent, it doesn't come near. what the £235 is a split of the deficit shared around the clubs.. 250k divided by 129 clubs/pitches comes to a little over 4k each on average, but that does not mean ll clubs received the same amount.. one club may have had a 1k grant and another 7k.. on the other hand, if everyone stayed with the council and paid the 'full fee', the deficit will be zero in 2017 and then back down to the lower normal fee, but that's not going to happen.. end of the day, football and rugby have not been having sport on the cheap, al they had is grass cutting subsidised. it's the bowls and cricket unfortunately that takes the bulk of the 3 year grant. the danger is, if a club makes a £200 profit a week now covering all their teams and that is an achievement, come 2016 they will be 'bancrupt'... aa for cricket, i would say that £150 a match is required to maintain the grass and prepare but that doesn't include minor repairs to the square.. a football pitch basically costs around £25 for a quick trim and that's it..of any coucil in wales charges more than £50, that is too expensive. to a private contractor it should cost no more than £40.. i'm waiting for my comprehensive foi requets, but i have read the bowls annual analysis of costs and it is very eye watering to some but is not extraordinary given the nature of the work involved

johnsouthwales said...

there is no level playing field, as no two potches are exactly the same. pitches and grass vary from one year to another, but cricket and bowls is pretty constant, if a ton of sand and fertiliser goes up in price, the maintanence goes up.. and if anything, the maintanence of football pitches has been poor over the last 20 -30years, combine that with dilapidated changing rooms. even with a decent amount of full maintanence every year, the proper cost can be up to £150 match which should give a better playing surface overall, but because this has been absent, all they do is take the ground rent and a cheap and cheerful cut to keep the costs down to the bare. And if i was paying £150 a match, i would expect that pitch to look a little like a proper football league's surface, not like the sand filled goal areas and bumpy pitches that have been given to the likes of us that are likely to cause an injury.. if a council ploughs back into the product they are renting out,most would be better off

johnsouthwales said...

i've had a chat with council, what the media should have done better is issue the press pack properly. £235 is a guide. it could be cheaper if it can be structured. whatever happens, if the sport associations take on the maintanence or the town council, that means a council employee gets made laid off and maybe the parks manager too. it really is a dark situation all around whichever way it's looked at.. when the deficit is down to zero, that still means that the pitches have to be maintained by the club after this date to keep the next grant intact. and the likelyhood dressing rooms now would have further deteriorated by then. football and rugby is easier to play with, but cricket and bowls is so complex and expensive. sorry for giving bad news, i wish i can come up with a more satisfactory conclusion bit there doesn't seem to be one. the council will still cut the pitches after a transfer, as there are 4 options available in the structure. a sports association or town council. and maybe a bit of leeway in working out something between themselves a small club and the county council. and the council could tender the maintanence out. i would advise any interested parties to seek info at the council's llanelli sports and recreation depot. with cricket for example, if a pitch is cut and prepared and the game gets cancelled for whatever reason, it doesn't get rearranged and the points shared - so that money has been lost. it could be sods law that a league has 14 home games, and a cup competition has 6 rounds, so that club could have all their games drawn in their favour if drawn at home, so an extra 6 cuts. then again, talking of changing rooms, ammanford town and ammanford rughy share the same changing room as the building belongs to the sporting association but the land is leased by the county council. so, no two pitches are the same after all..local sports cannot be put on a level field because of various reasons, as it would be like comparing a tiny village like carway to chelsea.. all county councillors have received the presspack. some clubs players are paying subs, some £3 a match, some £4 and to counter balance this defict is to raise the sub to around £8 - £12 each to play. bowls membership could mean up to £100 per member. combinations of things such as cutting back on kitchen hire as the council charge on this if it's available in pavilions, even if the sandwiches are served by volunteers.

johnsouthwales said...

have people been having sport on the cheap? most sport is subsidised one way or the other in different formats.. most of prem league football operates on sustainable debt. smaller clubs and non league cannot afford that luxury.

if a town council takes asset transfer on, would they increase precepts every year to keep the sports going?

has the county council contributed by accident to the ever increasing cost in charging high maintanence fees?

looking at recommended hourly rates by various bodies including unions, a highly skilled chief greenkeeper can be on 40k a year, but the general run seems to be around 25k for an experienced keeper, and they would be on around £10 - £12 an hour, and that to me seems to be worth it.

if a council is charging clubs more tan £15 per hour for labour costs, that's problematic.

a council would be happy to get someone in for £6.50, as a few golf course greenkeepers were being paid this and went on strike.

would a heads groundsman be cutting pitches? maybe they would if there is nobody else around to do it, as that is usually left to the lower ranks of groundsman or junior and cheaper.

if a council employs a head groundsman and has various tasks, then there's not a lot that can be done to get that cost down.

to help the clubs, either a council will have to look at it's own pricing policy or tender it out, which of course means redundancy. choice is theirs which has been forced upon them by the cut in subsidy and repayment, which works out about £4.35 per household per year.

a council will not pay a £12 an hour groundsman to cut verges, they tender that out as low as possible, often less than £7 an hour, and there's an awful lot of verges and green pockets to be cut in carms