Pitch hire costs 'stopping kids from joining in sport'
YOUNGSTERS in the Swansea Valley claim the cost of hiring an artificial sports pitch is preventing them from cashing in on the Olympic legacy and enjoying sport them- selves.
Such is the strength of feeling amongst youngsters using the all-weather pitch next to Pontardawe Leisure Centre that a petition has been launched.
In it they call on Celtic Community Leisure, which was set up on a not-for-profit basis by Neath Port Talbot Council to operate a range of leisure facilities, to lower the £42-a-session tariff.
Celtic Community Leisure insists it has tried to help by offering alternative times at a different price to the peak periods.
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Josh Dykes, who helps run Pontardawe junior football teams, said similar facilities could be hired in the county of Swansea for £30 — and in Powys for £28.
Mr Dykes, who has been trying to get the prices lowered for several months, said: "The Olympics were meant to inspire the next generation, but how can we do that when children can't afford to take part?
"After meeting with Celtic Community Leisure we have no other option than to start this petition, as we found their attitude to helping us to get more children involved in sport — by making it affordable — appalling.
"By having junior rates, it will not only benefit our club, but every single junior sports club using the facilities of Celtic Community Leisure.
"We believe every child should have an equal opportunity to participate in sport, however, the children of Neath Port Talbot are being discriminated against as surrounding areas such as Powys and Swansea offer junior rates, meaning they pay up to £12 less an hour."
He added: "We need the community behind us."
The move is being supported by South West Wales AM Bethan Jenkins.
She said: "It's dismaying that Celtic Community Leisure has chosen to ignore or refuse the approaches that Pontardawe Town AFC Juniors have made regarding pitch fees. Celtic Community Leisure did offer other times for cheaper rates, but it was very late at night and young children couldn't train at that time. That was unrealistic and is why the side feels it has to resort to this petition.
"It's incredibly frustrating at a time when the whole of the UK is entering into a debate about the legacy of the incredible Olympic and Paralympic games that have just finished, when millions of people have been inspired by our athletes, that Celtic Community Leisure would take this position and make it very difficult to allow young people in Pontardawe to take advantage of this legacy and play more sports. Let's hope this petition changes the organisation's mind."
Duncan Kerr, chief executive of Celtic Community Leisure, said he had met with Pontardawe Town Junior Football Club in an attempt to find a solution.
He said that at the last meeting several discounted times on a number of days, covering both indoor and outdoor facilities, were offered, and CCL awaited a response.