A CHILDREN’S football team has been banned from playing on a local pitch until they can stump up cash for a £10 million insurance policy.
Under-13s at cash-strapped Kirkliston & South Queensferry Football Club have been denied game time at the only 11-a-side field in the area because leisure centre bosses are demanding they pay for insurance.
The club has hit a stalemate with Kirkliston Leisure Centre – which only opens for three-and-a-half hours per weekend – after bosses insisted they fork out extra money for out-of-hours use, which is not covered by the centre’s own insurance policy.
It is understood Kirkliston and South Queensferry FC (KSQ FC) would have to pay up to £600 per year for insurance protection worth £10 million to play on the pitch.
Club officials claim the pitch lies empty for most of the weekend because the leisure centre closes at 1.30pm on Saturdays and is not open at all on Sundays.
Mark Richardson, chairman of KSQ FC, said he’s been left “disappointed and frustrated” by months of talks with leisure centre bosses whom he believes have “come up with some excuse not to help”.
“They’ve cut back on hours to save money, and they dismantled the 11-a-side goals completely, which restricted any youth football in the area,” he said.
“As a club we have grown considerably over the last five years, and we’re now up to 250 boys and girls. The under-13s were going to be the first 11-a-side time in Kirkliston for probably ten years.
“We would have loved to have played at the leisure centre but because it’s closed for most of the weekend, no-one case use it.”
And he added: “Everything we’ve tried to do, they’ve come up with some excuse not to help us. We are seriously struggling for space to train and to play games. Since the goals were taken away, no-one is using the pitch, but the council is still paying to have the grass cut.”
Mr Richardson said he was told if the club were to play on the pitch without authority they would have to answer to the police.
Today, Hearts legend Gary Mackay – who holds the club appearance record – called for Kirkliston Leisure Centre to back down and let the children play football.
He said: “I understand the need for insurance, because things can happen, but we should be providing as many facilities as we can to encourage boys and girls to be active in football, rugby, cricket, or any sport. The best idea would be to change the hours that the centre is open on the weekend, to allow it to fit with the club playing football.
“They need to think about opening the leisure centre on a Saturday and a Sunday.”
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Leisure, which operates the leisure centre, said weekend hours at the complex was cut in 2012 to save money because of “extremely low use”.
“This was to ensure more efficient use of budgets, and to avoid having the centre open at times of extremely low use, so it could continue to provide sporting and leisure services to the local community during times of maximum need.”
She added: “There is an option for groups in the community to arrange to use the centre and its facilities outwith hours. Such arrangements that require keyholder status and access to the building and use of facilities such as changing rooms do require the group to be fully insured for public liability during this time.”