Whiteley football pitch ban leads to ‘apartheid’ row

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THE decision of a parish council to ban football clubs from outside its village from using the local rec has been blasted as ‘practising a form of apartheid’.

Officials from Burridge AFC were left stunned when they were suddenly told that they could no longer hire the pitches at the recreation ground in Whiteley that they had previously been using without problems for about five years.

Burridge sits in Fareham borough in the Sarisbury ward, but the nearby Meadowside rec is on Winchester City Council land, overseen by the local parish council.

Sarisbury ward councillor Sean Woodward said: ‘They are practising a form of apartheid. In Fareham, we allow anyone to hire our grounds, wherever they’re from.

‘The buildings and grounds are maintained with public money. The club is very disappointed.’

The club has four adult teams and is based at Burridge recreation ground on Botley Road. But because of problems with the pitches getting waterlogged it has often had to turn to Whiteley to play matches.

AFC’s chairman Barrie Becheley said: ‘We’ve never had any problem there before, but they suddenly told us: “No”, because they said they’re for Whiteley clubs only.

‘We feel discriminated against. We’ve never caused any trouble there or had any complaints made about us.’

But Whiteley parish council chairman, Cllr Mike Evans, defended the move and said: ‘The parish council recently took over the running of the pitches and we took the decision as a parish council to give exclusivity to Whiteley Wanderers.

‘After talking with the ground’s staff, we decided to keep their usage just to Whiteley’s teams. It’s about being able to look after the pitches properly.

‘It’s not a Fareham versus Winchester thing at all, but the facilities there are paid for by taxpayers’ money from Winchester.

‘We got lots of requests to use those pitches, not just from Burridge. It was a very difficult decision, there’s no animosity there.’

Whiteley Wanderers started in 1998 and has about 400 members across 24 teams for boys and girls up to age 18.