Fair play sought for clubs at Caledonian Park

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Council to avoid exclusivity at Shels Park

THE plight of football clubs using Caledonian Park was raised at a recent meeting of city council’s Sports Committee.

The clubs – Weston Villa and Prospect- have been encountering problems caused by littering and unsupervised horses, wandering onto the pitch.

Cllr Jim Long told the meeting that both clubs had been using the pitches at Caledonian Park for over 45 years.

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“They are operating in a very disadvantaged area but when they asked for assistance from the council in maintaining and cleaning the pitches they were told that as they didn’t have leases that nothing could be done, even though they do have permission to play there.

“I think it should be in the remit of this committee to help the clubs and accommodate them in some way,” he urged.

Conceding that the council is aware of ongoing difficulties and other issues occurring at Caledonian Park, City Hall executive, Pat Dowling said the council had taken the necessary action, over the years, to protect the sports grounds’ facilities

He said that Hyde Rangers and Prospect FC have leases on two pitches but that a further two clubs have no written licences, just an agreement that the pitches can by used by them.

Pointing out that Caledonian Park is being considered for inclusion in the city’s regeneration programme of upgrading sports and leisure facilities, Mr Dowling said that in the context of the City Development Plan, a meeting would be held between the council and the club officials to address relevant issues.

This week Cllr Long confirmed that the meeting had been very productive.

“Weston Villas and Prospect were given a full hearing and an assurance that while Caledonian Park is the responsibility of the council, it is obliged to maintain and clean the facility and that in doing so it allows the clubs to use this sporting venue.”

An assurance was also given that when the development of Caledonian Park is discussed, the issue of municipal playing areas for the clubs will be on the agenda.

The impending reopening of Shelbourne Park, following a complete refurbishment, was referred to by Cllr Kevin Kiely, who urged that clubs that have been using the grounds for years – including Ballynanty Rovers and Shelbourne FC- be allowed to continue there.

Emphasising that the council’s approach is to “avoid exclusivity in the park’s usage, Mr Dowling said;

“We want as many as possible to benefit from the newly refurbished Shelbourne Park and its fine facilities.

“However, it is our intention to honour prior arrangements and I will be meeting with the councillors to discuss such issues as the day -to- day operation of the park’s opening and closing hours, staffing, agreement regarding dressing rooms – we must not make it exclusive, we can’t have one club having exclusive rights to a pitch they don’t regularly use. Clubs that have their own facilities should not be given use of Shelbourne which is now a public park with sports usage”.