Quite why Chelmsford City Council are happy to turn on their back on a potential £55,000 a year to benefit tax payers is a question that is being asked by Leisure Leagues.
The firm, who had operated successful, award winning and popular community leagues in the town for a decade – were booted off the re-laid pitches at South Woodham Ferrers Leisure Centre (pictured) after the tender process was completed, despite offering £55,000 per year more than the winning bid – and it appears that the council were told in advance of the supposed tender who they were allowed to meet with.
It was said that this happened because Leisure Leagues do not affiliate to the FA. However, a bewildered Leisure Leagues have hit back at the council claiming that the tender process has not followed rules that were laid down by Sport England.
Leisure Leagues has used the Freedom of Information Act to unearth emails which prove beyond doubt that this route was not followed.
“Sport England have said that affiliation should not be a bar to being able to use a pitch,” said a furious spokesperson “and for the council to use that as an abiding reason to kick us off and in so doing mean that our long and wonderful association with the town is jeopardised is absolutely ridiculous.”
In 2012, Sport England – who decreased FA funding earlier in the year for their lack of commitment to Grass Roots football – released a statement that: “We believe that limiting the use of facilities to affiliated teams does create barriers to participation and we cannot see there is any justification for this.
The spokesman continued: “Despite us giving our profits to charity and making our leagues available to both male and female players, Essex FA have been looking for a way to penalise us for not affiliating to them and this does appear to a way for them to get us off the pitch.
“Our question to the council is simple: Our bid offered more money to your coffers than the winning firm. What else have you received from them? Let’s be transparent about this. People need to know why in these challenging times you can refuse money – unless you have benefited in other areas?”
Leisure Leagues have repeatedly asked Chelmsford Council to come clean regarding the tender process, but despite requests – and although this is the legal right of the CCC under the Freedom of Information Act, surely that would in itself raise alarm bells as to the transparency of the process.
A wider issue is that there is no relevant government guidelines for tenders of this nature – which means that although they have turned down an extra £55,000 of funding at a time when funding for public services is being squeezed due to years of austerity, they can freely give the pitch to whoever they like regardless of any other factor.
The reality of the situation is that the people of Chelmsford are being short changed, and those who made this decision – whether inside the Council or out – cannot be held accountable.
Leisure Leagues plans to keep fighting for the withheld – and it appears crucial – information to be released.Back to Blog