Monday, 22 September 2014

Barnet Council - Tories yet again exposed for their hatred of Football

So what is our national game? What is the game that most boys would play out of choice at school? The answer is Association Football. There are many sports played in the UK, but football is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of levels of participation, interest and affection for our young people. It is a sad fact that there is one place where this is not the case. That is here in the London Borough of Barnet. We used to have two clubs with famous histories and traditions in the Borough. Sadly both have been shafted by Barnet Council. Barnet FC were forced out of the Borough by Council intransigence and hostilty. The club now play in the London Borough of Harrow at the Hive, having finally given up on trying to get the Council to cooperate. For Hendon FC, it is even sadder. The team now groundshare with Wembley, their ground being sold to a property developer of £20 million. 

It seems that the Council have no clue about the vital role of having a local team to inspire youngsters. It goes deeper than that though. Barnet has a reputation for poor maintenance of pitches in the Borough for youth teams. I recently visited Burnt Oak lesuire centre and was dumstruck to see the state  of the youth football pitch. The season has only just started, but the pitch is in a highly dodgy state. The number of playing fields that the council has concreted over in the Borough or left to fall into rack and ruin is scandalous. Within a couple of miles from my house we've lost Pavillion Road and the Mill Hill Sports club in recent years. There now seems to be a massive question mark over the future of Mill Hill Village FC, a club which has been around for over 100 years. It seems that there are issues with the lease on the ground. There is a suspicion that the council sees such sites as prime real estate.

For some reason, whilst Barnet Council hate local football clubs, they love rugby. Now I personally have no issue with Rugby, I've been to Saracens RFC a few times. I am however appalled by the double standard. Saracens RFC have had a huge subsidy from Barnet Council in the form of  a "sweetheart deal" on their Copthall ground. Now the ground clearly was decrepid before the Saracens development and they've done a great job, but given the lack of previous ties to the Borough, one has to point out the double standard.

The latest example of anti football bias is revealed in a press release on the Barnet Council website. It seems that any sport is encouraged in Barnet apart from football. I was pleased to see a press release on the Barnet Council website announcing funding from Sport England to get young people off their backsides and into a sport ( which is clearly a step in the right direction. Then I read what the press release and I was horrified. It seems that any sport except football is encouraged.  Read these snippets
The Sport England money will be combined with additional funding from Barnet Council’s Public Health and Children Services departments, the Saracens Foundation and Middlesex University to create a £3000,000 project fund.Young people will be able to take part in a range of coaching sessions in sports and activities including basketball, rugby, boxing, athletics, self defence and dance. They will also have the chance to take part in a number of ‘come and try’ days.
 It goes on

Councillor Helena Hart said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive funding from the Community Sport Activation Fund which will allow us to develop our sport and physical activity offer to 14 to 25-year-olds.We will offer a selection of sports and physical activity sessions ranging from self-defence, athletics, basketball, Tai Chi and much more. Young people will be able to have their say about how they can get into sport and I am sure it will encourage them to come back for more.”
As you can see no mention at all of football. Now of course all of these sports are great things to get involved with and all should be encouraged. We have to wonder why in Barnet there is such a bias against our national game? Now it may very well be an oversight. It may well be that there is money in the pot for football (we sincerely hope so) but how could you fail to mention it. It would be like setting up a Battle of Britain museum appeal and not mentioning the RAF.

I've raised this seeming blindspot on serveral occasions with Barnet Tory Councillors. They've all assurred me that there is no "anti football" policy, but not a single one has ever been able to quote a single example of anything where Barnet Council were promoting our national sport. Once again, I am throwing down the guantlet to Barnet Council. Get behind our national game. Tell us what you are doing for young footballers to help and encourage them. We'd be the first to promote any scheme which was good for football in the Borough so tell us about it. My son plays under 15 football for a local club, Watling Youth FC. Guess what the council did to their clubhouse/centre? You've got it. The Watling Boys club building was recently demolished for "new homes". What I see every week is dozens of parents taking excited youngsters for what is the highlight of their week. Like me they stand for a couple of hours at the side of the pitch, come rain or shine. I've seen the boys in the team grow up and I've seen the dedication and hard work they put in. Is it too much to ask for a bit of support from our local Council.

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