THE boss of an award-winning soccer school has voiced concerns over the running of Cupar’s new £650,000 all-weather pitch.
Austin MacPhee, the managing director of AMSportsTours, which runs AMSoccer Schools for youngsters, said he can’t understand why Fife Sports and Leisure Trust won’t let his company block-book the new pitch at Duffus Park for two nights a week for the next two years..
Mr MacPhee wants to run an adult league one evening a week from 6pm-9pm and book the pitch for children from 4.30pm-6.30pm on another evening.
He argued that a block-booking for the next two years would give the trust a guaranteed income and provide top-quality venue for young children.
However, after making enquiries about hiring it, Mr MacPhee said he was told the trust had ‘concerns’ about booking for such a long period.
He was also told commercial companies would incur a 100 per cent surcharge, doubling the full pitch rate of £50 per hour.
Mr MacPhee said: “I cannot understand for the life of me why a two year booking for three hours on just one or two nights would be a ‘concern’.
“Surely it would be a good thing for the cash-strapped council and for a young company in the local area to try to fully utilise the potential of the new facility?”
Querying the pricing structure, he went on: “Why are ‘commercial’ bookings double in price?
“Does the trust not want companies to use the pitch? We are a ‘company’ because we have skilled coaches providing training for 540 children in the local area and their parents value what we are doing.
“The rates are ridiculous and will only serve to drive people like myself, away from the facility. We just can’t use it at these rates.”
Mr MacPhee, whose company block-books various Fife Council facilties to run its classes, added: “I was amazed that we were not on the trust’s radar for trying to maximise use of the pitch.
“We are the biggest youth football organisation in Fife, have partnership with a pro club and were the first to have kids train with FC Barcelona.
“We also provide £150,000 worth of coach education funding for Elmwood College students, have won numerous awards and employ over 25 local people, but when an artificial grass pitch is built on our doorstep no-one wants us to use it!”
In response, Fife Sports and Leisure Trust said community and not commercial use was its priority.
A spokesperson said: “Fife Sports and Leisure Trust was established in 2008 to manage and operate Fife Council’s 13 sports and leisure facilities across the region.
“It is a not-for-profit distributing organisation which holds a service agreement with Fife Council to provide and develop health and fitness activities and programmes for the communities of Fife.
“The recently opened all-weather pitch at Cupar Sports Centre was made possible by a £650,000 investment by Fife Council and has created a valuable asset for local community use.
“We can confirm that AMSoccer Schools did approach Cupar Sports Centre with a view to booking the new all-weather pitch and the business was told that a commercial rate for use would apply.
“Until such time that the demand from local clubs, football development partners and residents can be accurately gauged, it would be premature to grant a two year weekly booking at prime-time demand to AMSoccer Schools.
“It would be contrary to the trust’s primary objective of providing accessible and affordable facilities for encouragement and enjoyment of local people.
“The trust has only recently taken over management of the new pitch at Cupar Sports Centre and is already in discussion with Fife Council to develop classes and programmes which will provide accessible and affordable programmes to respond to local demand.”