Footballers ‘forced to wee in bushes’ after they are locked out of changing rooms

FOOTBALLERS who play for a Sunday league football team say they are having to wee in bushes after they were locked out of toilet and changing facilities.

The Three Fiddles FC, who play on the King George V playing fields in Guisborough, previously had an agreement to use changing rooms in a council-owned leisure centre.

But after Guisborough Town Football Club put forward plans to fence off pitches on the fields, which the club says are licensed from Redcar and Cleveland Council, they were told they could no longer have the key to the facilities.

Three Fiddles manager Chris Gowland, whose team plays in Division One of the  Langbaurgh Sunday Football League, said they previously paid £20 a game to use the changing rooms and toilets.

He said: “Then at the end of the season we found out that Guisborough Town were putting fencing up around the pitch and were told we could not use the changing rooms for no apparent reason.

“We kept asking, saying we would pay for their use, but just got no answer, we are just banging our heads against a brick wall.

“There was a lady who works at the leisure centre who said ‘I will open the changing rooms for you’, but she then got a message from someone higher up in the council saying they are not allowed to open the changing rooms for our use.”

Mr Gowland added: “The weather has changed and sometimes the lads are getting changed on the touchline in the pouring rain, or in their cars.

“It’s also not on for the lads to have to wee in the bushes, when there are people walking their dogs and kids running about.

“The club [Guisborough Town] has said we can have the use of the fields for free in the meantime while they are sorting the fence out, but we just want the use of the changing rooms and are willing to pay for them.”

Mr Gowland said there was a general lack of facilities in grassroots football and most teams were used to it.

He said: “If you go down to North Ormesby, Netherfields, anywhere, there is nothing for teams to get changed in.

“It is frustrating and annoying.

“If you are looking to the councils, they are not really bothered, over the years I’ve played and refereed football they just want the pennies off you.”

Three foot fence

Guisborough Town was given permission over the summer by Redcar and Cleveland Council to erect a three foot-high wire fence around two pitches at the playing fields in a bid to deter issues with dog fouling, litter and anti-social behaviour, with the majority of councillors supportive of the application.

The plans were criticised by some locals fearing a loss of green space as a “land grab”, but supporters said they would help provide “first class professionally-run football facilities eventually for residents of all ages, sex and ability”.

The club has said it does not own the changing facilities previously used by the Three Fiddles – having its own which are accessed from within its ground – and they belong to the council, being managed by its ‘Everyone Active’ offshoot.

But the council was unable to shed any light on the situation when approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, instead advising a reporter to contact Guisborough Town FC.

A Three Fiddles player, who wished to remain anonymous, said the team previously had what he described as a “gentleman’s agreement” to use the changing facilities and ensure they were kept clean.

He said: “The manager turned up to request the key from the swimming baths and they said ‘because of what’s happened with Guisborough Town applying for the fencing we are not too sure how we stand with letting you guys use the changing rooms’.

“We’ve been running sports teams for years on the playing fields and Guisborough Town have never once bothered with us.

“We just do this for a bit of pleasure, we look after the pitch, put the nets up, and do everything else.

“We have changed on the field, it’s alright when it’s sunny, but when it rains you get absolutely soaked.

“We’ve been getting changed in our cars a lot of time.

“If you need to go to the toilet, there’s nothing, you basically have to go in a bush.”

Councillor Anne Watts, who represents the neighbouring Belmont ward on Redcar and Cleveland Council, said she was approached by Three Fiddles players to help, having objected to the fencing plans.

She said: “They [the Three Fiddles] are now having to wee in the corner when they have other teams coming to play, get changed in the car and have nowhere to shower.

“They have nowhere to turn really and have come to me as a troublemaker, which I am, and asked if I would help.

“It’s very strange, they could use the facilities before.

“If all else fails I would like a portable building put there, there has got to be some facility on that field.”

Chris Wood, a representative of Guisborough Town FC and its junior teams secretary, said there had been some confusion and the facilities used by the Three Fiddles did not belong to the club, even though they back onto its ground.

He said: “We don’t own those facilities and they are not our responsibility.

“The recent [planning] permission [for the fence] doesn’t include the changing rooms and we don’t own them or lease them.”

Mr Wood said Guisborough Town’s groundsman maintained the pitch used by the Three Fiddles.

He said: “He does the lines and cuts the pitch and has just recently painted the goalposts.”

Mr Wood added: “We’ve always been clear in terms of the planned fence area, that the pitches will be available to book by structured teams such as the Three Fiddles.

“The fee has not been decided, but it will be based on costs to the club and we will be responsible for the upkeep.

“If anybody wants to come and speak to us, we are more than happy to have conversations and work with members of the community.”

A spokesman for the council was unable to comment on the access issues faced by the Three Fiddles.

He said: “The King George V fields are a vital public resource for all and the council has lease agreements with Guisborough Town FC, which is an asset to the wider community.”

The Northern Echo | Teesside