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"Give us your stories we will put it in "

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EARLIER this year, in response to a substantial offer of sponsorship from a local businessman, Ian McDonald (owner of cost-effective property solutions company, IME Ltd, based in Loanhead), the SFA's South East Scotland Regional Manager, Michael Sharp, was consulted to see if a new league for clubs with teams in the under-21 age group could be set up, giving the players in each of the huge youth club set-up in Edinburgh and the Lothian regions the chance to go on and play in a top-class league for players over the age of 21. At the initial meeting in the Loanhead offices of the proposed sponsor, the regional manager was accompanied by Keith Wright, the former Hibs star currently working as an SFA Community Coach in Dalkeith. Following what was a constructive meeting, Michael Sharp agreed to present the plans for the new league set-up to his bosses at the SFA in Glasgow. Subsequent to that, a further meeting was held in the offices of Midlothian Council in Dalkeith, to report on the answer from the SFA. The answer appeared to be positive and, eventually, I attended a further meeting of the South East Scotland Committee, during which further presentations of the plans for sponsoring a league that would include all the biggest youth football clubs in this area of Scotland, playing at the very highest level possible with games taking place in enclosed pitches and with good changing facilities. The standard would have been commensurate with a level of 'semi-professional' football! All the delegates at this meeting appeared to be in broad agreement with the proposals. That meeting took place several weeks ago and nothing more has been heard from the SFA representative. Nothing at all! At every stage, the initiative to progress the plans for a new league set-up that would have proved very successful and productive in terms of creating even stronger ties with each respective community club involved, it would have given late developers to play in leagues of the best standard possible, came through me. It would have been a modern and vibrant football set-up, with a new style management team organising and running the league. It was, in effect, a glorious opportunity to take a massive forward and positive step in to the 21st century in this third world football country of ours. Sadly, the lack of any information and enthusiasm from the SFA representative has resulted in the realisation that this league is just not going to happen. It is effectively, 'dead in the water'! The offer of up to £30,000 from the sponsor does not appear to have stirred either his imagination or caused any excitement among the so-called 'ruling body' at Hampden Park in Glasgow. It certainly has not galvanised them in to any positive and urgent action. It was my advice originally to the businessman who was going to put up this huge amount of sponsorship to go through the SFA in setting up this league in the first place. I thought that was the correct thing to do, to show that I could work constructively to promote this new set-up for the good of the game at community based level. It is my advice, now, to tell him to keep his money and offer it to a much more responsive group of people. I have withdrawn from any further involvement and I will not waste the valuable time of Ian McDonald.  Sadly, the lack of respect shown to this massive sponsorship offer from a football-mad businessman in Edinburgh, is a further sign - if any is needed - that the SFA is not interested in community-based football clubs. That, indeed, will not come as any surprise to the volunteers who give up their time, talents and money to run organised leagues for our young people. To turn down the offer of up to £30,000 sponsorship is something that will further enhance(?) the unhelpful image of the SFA in this city and the Lothian regions, too.

 

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THE Scottish Executive Education Report into the Vulnerable Groups Bill has been published and it has been slammed by David Little, national secretary of the Scottish Youth FA at Hampden Park. Expressing his concerns, the permanent official closely involved with the vetting of people working with children, Mr Little said: " "It would seem that against the backdrop of a daming Financial Memorandum, a blistering attack by a unified volunteer sector and the education committees refusal to support part 3 of the Bill the Executive will still carry on with their political timetable. The press release from the Scottish Executive does not understand the common position of those mentioned and I support the following statement!"

*Vetting and barring people who want to work with children is important for particular kinds of work. Extending it too far puts people off working with children and may leave them more vulnerable. The Scottish  Parliament and the Executive should pause and take stock before passing the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Bill. We need to examine the real risks and put effective safeguards in place. Vetting and barring will be part of that, but the proposals need to be refocused and scaled down, within the context of a public debate about what makes for a happy, healthy and safe childhood. We can start that debate now to pave the way for introduction of a modified bill in the next session of Parliament.
The SYFA secretary added: "A more detailed statement that will reflect the discussions of the  group will be circulated in due course. It is hoped that if people can
agree on a detailed statement, this could then inform the briefing that we will give MSPs prior to the debate at Stage 1 on 17 January 2007!"

Fuller information on this subject is available in the folowing:
www.sccyp.org.uk; http://www.cypcommissioner.org/

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A   NEW Grass Roots Football related community website www.halftimetalk.net has been laumched. The objective is to bring individuals involved in the game at all levels closer together to gain a greater understanding as to the roles adults play in the development of children involved in the beautiful game. It will also have information on coaching and training, tournaments, match officials, centralised relevant news feeds, courses and much more! Post Match News the Desktop News Alert tool will assist you in being on top of the game as well as providing topics of discussion within the forums. http://www.halftimetalk.net/desktop.php 

Ideas and suggestions from  Coaches, Parents or a Match Official perspective will be welcome and those who wish to have a more active role in the site in relation to moderating or administration or providing site content please feel free to email us at forums@halftimetalk.net. In return the site offers promotion for any relevant football school or tournament as well as FREE inclusion in the mini- sites section.

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AS part of his ongoing coverage of community-based football in the Lothian regions, Local Heroes contributor, Ian Mackay, has initiated a Monthly Award prize, with Leith Athletic Under-14s the first winners. This team, one of three in the same age group at the Leith Links based club, have established themselves as one of the top teams in their age group. Leith Athletic are currently, making a strong bid for the first division title in the Lothian Buses sponsored leagues in the Easter Region Youth FA. Leith Athletic FC are closely associated with the community in their area and have around 600 kids in membership. All their teams have a Leith 'character' character about them when they play and the under-14s are no exception. Ian Mackay handed over the prizes, consisting of six training and two match balls along with a framed coloured picture of the squad, with the names of all 17 players also appearing in the picture at a training night with the Colts at  Heriot's School playing fields at Goldenacre. Colin Tomassi said: "We are very proud and honoured to be the first recipients of this award. It is a great lift for all of us at Leith Athletic!"  This winners of this award will appear in Local Heroes at the beginning of each month and it is open to schools, youth, girls, women, and adult men's teams as well as individuals. Community-based football is run entirely by volunteers and more than 20,000 young people take part in organised competitive leagues each and every week during the season. It is the biggest and most popular sport in the Lothian regions and, unfortunately, is the least funded and supported by politicians. Hopefully, this new initiative will help show volunteers that they are respected and admired, particularly by those in the Evening News, a paper that has consistently given more space to promoting this sport than any other newspaper in Scotland.
 

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Another of the emails received relating to the poor facilities in the Capital city of Scotland:

Hi, Ian, I am one of the coaches at Balerno High School 1st Year Team and we are trying to get an old blaize-type pitch upgraded to an astro-pitch. I would welcome any help you could give us in terms of how to deal with the City of Edinburgh Council, who if anyone is helpful and useful there. Also if you are looking for an article to highlight poor resources etc at schools let me know. Currently we have to rent pitches at East Calder Sports Centre which does involve extra costs, tavelling etc which I know must put off some of the pupils participating. In additon to this email, I have also received another one on the same subject from a teacher at Balerno High School. In addition, Andy Strickland, of Currie Youth Club has contacted me several times about the problems he and the club will be facing with the rise in the number of teams playing organised 11-a-side football. How bad is the situation, really, in Edinburgh, with complaints coming in from all over the place from teachers, now, in to the bargain. My emails appear to upset cllr Anderson and he has asked me not to send them as it takes up too much time in answering them, but I have little option other than to keep bombarding him and others with them. Cllr Anderson has said he wants to work with me and I am keen to do so,  but I must also keep my allegiance to the  people in Edinburgh who come to me with their complaints. It is my job to highlight these complaints and bring them to the notice of the people in Edinburgh. Once, again, I would welcome comments to go with this story. Best wishes, from Ian Mackay.

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CO-OPERATIVE Insurance (CIS) is delighted to announce the launch of its partnership with the Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA). The agreement will see Co-operative Insurance sponsor the SYFA 14s Scottish Cup, building upon its existing grassroots football programme. The CIS Insurance 14s Cup is a national tournament that sees more than 4000 players taking part. The tournament is currently at the 4th round stage, however, all 306 youth teams that participated in this seasonís tournament will benefit from the agreement. To mark the occasion, Archie Knox (SFA Youth Teams National Coach) launched the sponsorship with David Little (National Secretary SYFA), Toni Franchittii (Co-operative Insurance) and children from Holyrood Secondary School at Hampden Park. Archie Knox commented: "The children who play in the CIS Insurance 14s Cup are the future of our national game. Youth football needs as muh support as it can get, so to see CIS Insurance involved at grassroots, as well as senior level is terrific." David Newman, Director of Marketing for Co-operative Insurance (CIS), added: "We are delighted to extend our support of grassroots football in Scotland. We truly believe in giving something back to the community and the CIS Insurance 14s Cup provides us with the opportunity to support over 4,000 children across Scotland. "Football plays an important role in communities throughout Scotland and sponsorship activity like the CIS Insurance 14s Cup reinforces our involvement within community football. Our grassroots football programme also includes the CIS Insurance Cup Kit for Kids initiative that provides schools and youth clubs with football kit, the CIS Insurance Cup Roadshow, which provides access to the trophy and match tickets for families and junior teams, and CIS Insurance Cup Masterclasses that see coaches from senior teams visit schools to provide them with training and equipment. We look forward to working with the SYFA and all their clubs during this seasonís CIS Insurance 14s Cup."

David Little, Scottish Youth Football Association said, "The CIS Insurance 14s Cup is a massive step forward for grassroots everyday football in Scotland. This generous sponsorship allows the SYFA to continue our valuable work with the most important people within Scotland, our nationís young people. Participation in grassroots football has a number of huge benefits to young players such as health but not forgetting fun and enjoyment. On behalf of our young players and dedicated volunteers I thank CIS Insurance"

 

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THOUSANDS of footballers representing hundreds of community-based football clubs will take to the streets of Edinburgh on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2007, in a united demand for better facilities for football and other sports at council-owned facilities in the Capital. Under the banner of Unite the Clubs Forum Protest March, a group of volunteers from many different youth clubs in Edinburgh have put aside all their perceived differences at long last to form a committee dedicated to getting modern, clean, hygienic and civilised facilities for football and other sports in a bid to bring about change in the way politicians at both local and national level fund the provision of modern changingroom buildings and the best synthetic synthetic enclosures with floodlights. Also high on the list of requirements for the modern day youth in this deprived country of Scotland are facilities for young people to socialise after games and also a place to entertain teams from other parts of the country and abroad, too. For more than 60 years, facilities for young people wanting to play for community-based clubs have been allowed to detoriate, with Edinburgh's pitches and buildings among the worst and dearest to hire anywhere in Scotland. Organiser of the Unite the Clubs Forum Protest March, Les Trotter, said: "This march is for all our young people, it is not for one club. We are determined to get better facilities for community-based clubs all over Edinburgh. We are united in our bid to take this to the politicians. The march will take place during the school break in February and, as it Valentine's Day, all the kids will be given heart-shaped red cards to show to politicians at the City Chambers and also at the Scottish Parliament. We are looking for help from business people and other organisations, such as the big supermarket chains in Edinburgh. This is a march on behalf of community-based clubs and we hope these big supermarkets will supply us with water bottles and 'goodie bags' for the kids taking part. This will be a huge march and we hope to issue a CD containing all the football anthems we can put on it. The massed ranks of those taking part can sing these anthems during the march, which is due to start at King's Stables Road, then on to Lothian Road, Princes Street, the Mound, Bank Street, High Street (stopping at City Chambers to present a petition) then on to the Scottish Parliament before a huge meeting in Holyrood Park. It will be sensational, but all of us involved intend continuing this campaign after the march. We are doing this for future generations of our young people. If any other schools of clubs, boys, girls, women and men, want to take part, they can contact me on lesflotrotter@hotmail.com! We are marching not just for football but for all others sports, too. We want to share modern facilities with other organisations!"
The Unite the Clubs Forum are busy preparing letters to send out to every member club in the Scottish Youth Football Association asking for support. These letters will go to clubs throughout Scotland in the hope that they, too, will unite behind this dramatic march which looks certain to be featured on television and the media. Representatives will, hopefully, be given space in the big shopping malls and supermarkets so that they can raise the profile and awareness of the action being taken on behalf of all our young people. The start of 2'007 will herald a new beginning for community-based clubs in Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland, with the magnificent volunteers from the Capital in the forefront of what is an incredible campaign for justice, fairness, impartiality and an end to the cronyism, favouritism and elitism that is prevalent in every part of life in this country, particularly it appears when it comes to the lack of funding for community-based sports clubs.

 

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THE Scottish FA's South East Football Partnership are inviting coaches to a free in-service session in preparation for the Level 4 Youth Award. The course is aimed at coach's taking teams at the 13 to 21 age group. The session will take place on Friday, December 8, between 6.30pm and 9pm at Peffermill Playing Fields Edinburgh.
The session will be lead by Scottish FA License Tutor, Henry Hall and will cover the key themes within the Level 4 Award and identify areas to concentrate on in Preparation for anyone planning to attend the Level 4 in the future. The Youth Award is a 30-hour non-residential qualification and assesses competence in delivering a coaching session based on the format of the Coaching Youth Footballers Certificate Course. In addition, candidates will be required to demonstrate the ability to shape a team and structure an individual programme for youth players. It is recommended that any coach attending should have previously attended the Level 3 Coaching in the Game Certificate or intend to attend the Level 4 in the near future. To apply for the course contact Michael Sharp (SFA Regional Manager) at michael.sharp@scottishfa.co.uk or come 5mins early and complete a registration form on the night of the course. Further information is available on http://www.footballcentral.org.uk/

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YOUNG sports mad people in Edinburgh struggle to find good faciliites to both train on and take part in competitive sports, in contrast to what is going to be offer to youngsters in other parts of Scotland such as the north east and Glasgow. In Aberdeen, a new regional sports facility has received £7m  of funding. Sportscotland has agreed to commit up to £7m towards the £24.5m Grampian Regional Sports Facility at the Chris Anderson Stadium Project in Aberdeen, which includes £2m of sportscotland Lottery funding. The project - part of the Executive's National Regional Sports Facilities Strategy - will provide an indoor athletics training facility, indoor synthetic grass pitch, nine courts sports hall, squash courts, fitness suite, sports performance lab and ancillary accommodation. Sportscotland had originally allocated £5m to the project. Following a detailed application at Stage 2, it has now agreed to increase that award up to £7m. The development is being taken forward by Aberdeen City Council, in partnership with Aberdeen University, each investing £8.7m. It is the second project to receive stage two approval under the Executive's £50m  National and Regional Sports Facilities Strategy, which includes £21.2m of sportscotland Lottery funding. Sports Minister Patricia Ferguson said: ""The Grampian Regional Sports Facility, will be an excellent community resource for people in Aberdeen and the north east. It will also help nurture our young sports stars and encourage wider participation in sport and physical activity, and will allow the north east to realise its sporting ambitions."

Julie Bracewell OBE, Chair of sportscotland, said: "Quality accessible facilities are vital if sport is to thrive in Scotland. There need to be the right quality and mix of facilities across the country which meets national, regional and local requirements, helping to develop future successful sporting generations. We are delighted to give the Grampian Regional Sports Facility stage two approval. I am sure it will play a key role in driving an increase in participation and supporting our elite athletes and those with the aspiration to compete at a higher level, in particular, complementing the work of the Grampian Area Institute of Sport."

The aim of the Executive's National and Regional Sports Facilities Strategy is to develop a network of multi-sport facilities across Scotland (covering the Area Institute Network), including a national indoor arena and two versatile municipal stadia. This is second project to receive stage two consent following Toryglen, which was granted approval in July. The remaining eight projects are located in Falkirk, Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow and North Lanarkshire.

*Will these places be open to community-based sports clubs is a valid question, considering that most projects in Edinburgh, Meggetland for example, where the football facility is being block-booked for the use of the elitist SFA Development Squads, while community-based clubs are offered lets starting at 9.00pm and night, up till 11.00pm! Hardly right, for kids aged 12 and upwards? 

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CURRIE Youth Club look set to be the next big youth football organisation to be forced to look for facilities for their burgeoning football section next season, With only one pitch currently available outside the Currie Youth Club building, there will a pile-up of users wanting to use the facility with a local Sunday amateur side also vying for use of the only pitch available in Currie. There is the possibility of getting the use of another pitch on the other side of Lanark Road to the Currie Youth Club, but it needs to be levelled and made in to a football pitch before than can be used and there appears to be little hope of the work being done in time for the start of next season, if at all! The old pavilion in that park would also need to be refurbished. Currie Youth Club coach, Andy Strickland, said: "If the pitch across the road was re-established, we would probably then require to use the pavilion. There are amateur teams that use the pavilion each week but I don't know what the state of the building is inside. As for the need for levelling the other park and making it serviceable, that is imperative for next season as the single pitch we currently use will only allow us to have two teams on a Sunday morning that can alternate home matches. Once my team goes under-15 next season, the let for 2.00pm is taken by an amateur team so I would be forced to look for other facilities!

Local councillor, Alastair Paisley, is supportive, but he does not hold out much hope of the pitch being levelled. He said: "I am very supportive of the desire to upgrade the Geo 4 football area to playing standard. I have been offered a roll and cut but this does not address the problem. The pitch as I understand is not up to letting standard and thus does not qualify for the full treatment being carried out at other locations. When you look at the broad picture in Currie we have ,the youth club, a very under used facility, we have the bowling club who are keen to expand their facilities not only for bowling but use their large car park (council-owned) to provide all-weather facilities. The Club are also willing to install showers. We have the dilapidated pavilion which could use an upgrade. Taking the area as a whole we could provide a sporting complex in the small area which could also be used by the school. What I need is a lottery winner!"

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After reading the pages of tonight's Evening News, then the article in The Pink from John McKenzie on the East Football Project, I am left totally dismayed for the future of football for ALL the people in this city. Along with the ever-increasing scandal that is Meggetland, the news about Meadowbank and Sighthill is appalling! The article on the EFP reminds me of all the rest of the political 'speak' from the City Chambers. It is my humble opinion that the EFP has well and truly been 'sucked in to the system'! Football is the game of the people, but apparently not any more in this elitist city. It is now my fervent hope that this administration is wiped out in the coming elections along with their self-seeking glory hunters in the Scottish Parliament. I will do all I can to expose what I perceive to be wrong and, in so doing, further relate to people involved with minor-grade sports/football clubs. . Thankfully, I can do this on my own by emails, etc, to the thousands of contacts I have. I don't expect this to be published and, in the New Year, I intend to continue to set up my own newspaper with the title Local Heroes Unlimited. I must have control over my own ideas and thoughts and not rely on anyone else. At least, no one will tell me what to do or what not to do. Vote Labour, not any more! 

 

I do not have a hatred of the SFA, but I do think they are totally useless in helping community-based clubs in Edinburgh.They have done nothing to halt the decline in facilities for community based football in this city. They appear to be either incapable or unable to take a pro-active role in the type of campaigns that are currently being conducted by myself and other volunteers who actually work with up to 20,000 young people in this city on a weekly bais in football. Your recent efforts to bring some facilities up to a tolerable standard are to be applauded. It is the future that matters, however, and you appear to be determined to create better facilities for this vast number of young people. Time will tell if that is proved right. I note your comments on Warriston and I will be there on Saturday morning to support one of the greatest role models I have ever met in my life, Jim Goodwillie. I think the world of this man, who is more of a friend now than ever. I love going to Warriston to offer him and all the other wonderful people who give their time, talents and cash to run football at primary school level. In all my visits to this venue and all others I know in this city, I have yet to see even one SFA Community Coach in attendance at either school or youth club football games. On the core question in the Letters for The Pink, the opening of the public-owned stadium created at Meggetland, you make no reference. This stadium, used exclusively by a private rugby club, belongs to the people of Edinburgh! It should be made available to all the people of Edinburgh, including schools and community-based football clubs. The fact that I have to repeat this again and again to Labour politicians is, to me, astounding! I challenge you and your Labour colleagues on Edinburgh City Council to agree with this and, in an act of fairness and impartiality, open up the use of that public-owned stadium to schools and community-based football clubs. Show respect, gain respect is something you claim to want! I have spent my life trying to get fairness and respect for community-based sports clubs, all sports clubs, not just football and I do not hate any group, either Edinburgh City Council, the Scottish Executive or the SFA. What is happening to all of these groups is that all three are being exposed - by the wonderful volunteers who give up their time, talents and cash to promote sport for young people in the most trying circumstances. Give respect to the thousands of volunteers in this city - give them all an equal share in exciting new developments, not just the cronies, favourites or elitists! I challenge you and your Labour party colleagues to do this! Signed, Ian Mackay
 

Ian,

Just to say on behalf of myself, the coaches and the players a huge thank you for the wonderful match report of our Scottish Cup replay on Sunday. Like you, I felt that we deserved to win the match but it certainly was a wonderful advert for our game with both teams playing their part.  The Carrick officials were wonderful after the game and made a lovely speech during the after match hospitality praising the manner in which both teams had competed and stating how unlucky we were which was nice and I wish them well. They have invited us through to their Summer 2007 tournament so impressed were they by the bond which has built between the clubs over the past few weeks.

We are always delighted to see you at any of our games Ian and it is a thrill for the boys every now and then to see their name in the reports.  You do a fantastic job and it is sincerely appreciated throughout the Eastern region I can tell you and you will always get a warm welcome at our place for sure.

All the very best.

Crawford Matthews  (Secretary Salvesen í94 U13s)

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Reply from Les Trotter  (UNITE THE CLUBS FORUM) Hutchison vale FC

David Fenton, Head of Infrastructure and Development talks of Boroughmuir Rugby Club and that it is to be 'open to community use',  how can this possibly happen as SFA Community Coaches, and development squads use this venue now. I applied through families let to use the facility to train our under 14s squad but all the reasonable timed slots were taken up by the SFA and by Boroughmuir  rugby club. You can't expect kids of that age to be out to 10pm or later for training as they have their education to consider. All the best times were taken up. How were the local community clubs not informed of the possible lets for use at Meggetland. As you say we have the right to use these facilities but we can't now as all slots are gone!  

 

Letters received by Ian Mackay from Edinburgh City Council referring to the state of facilities in Edinburgh for others to read:
From Councillor Robert Cairns to Ian Mackay:

For the record, I enclose a response I received from the Head of Infrastructure and Development at the Children and Families Department following your email of 12 October. I think the point the letter is making is that it is unfair to judge the Council's provision of facilities on the basis of one facility in a Victorian primary school (Abbeyhill) and you should look up the totality of provision across the city. The Council does have a strong commitment to improving sporting facilities and while we all agree much more should be done, a good start has been made and this will be built on.

 

From David Fenton, Head of Infrastructure and Development, to Councillor Robert Cairns:

Mr Mackay's observations on the condition of the outdoor facilities in an inner-city Victorian primary school (Abbeyhill), where the local community have access to sports facilities provided by other Council departments, does not reflect a true picture of the sports facilities across the department's estate. The department has began a phased redevelopment of sports facilties across its estate and has committed substantial funds to this redevelopment. Six artificial playing surfaces have been provided as part of the department's first PPP development. These pitches are now being floodlit at a cost of £300,000. At Bangholm Playing Fields, a new £1.6m development is underway and the department has just opened a new £9m sports complex at Meggetland that incorporates Boroughmuir Rugby Club and is to be open to community use. The department is committed to developing sports facilities across its estate and will continue with its phased development programme to ensure that this commitment is fulfilled.

Ian Mackay's reply:

I did not and I have not at any time based my criticisms on just one Victorian primary school (Abbeyhill). This campaign is to try to promote trust and respect for community-based football clubs that have and still are playing football in the most dreadful conditions possible. I travel across Edinburgh each and every week and I also go outside Edinburgh to promote community-based football and sport. Everywhere I go, with a few exceptions, I see for myself the substandard and out-of-date facilities and changingrooms for community-based football clubs to use. These facilities are expensive to hire, allegedly the dearest anywhere in Scotland. Facilities based on school premises are costly to hire, too, and at times difficult for community-based clubs to gain access to. This current campaign is not political in any sense, as this problem relating to facilities has got worse and worse over the past 60 years due to lack of real investment in young people. Generations of young footballers have been treated abysmally by politicians, the very people elected to represent the people, all of the people. The elitism shown by politicians in this city is scandalous. They appear not to be interested in allowing young footballers and others to share in the facilities built on public-owned land, partly at public expense - for rugby clubs! This campaign is to gain respect for the army of volunteers who give their time, their talents and their own money, to organise and run competitive football leagues for young people. A  conservative estimate of the number of young people involved every week is around 20,000. This city has the biggest amateur league set-up in Scotland and it also has the biggest and most active youth organisations in this country. The clubs these young people play for are established in communities, not schools! These clubs deserve the same treatment and help given to rugby clubs and, where possible, new facilities and stadia should be shared, starting with the magnificent stadium built for Boroughmuir Rugby Club at Meggetland. Officials in Waterloo Place should also recognise that, rather than run elitist squads at Meggetland organised by SFA Community Coaches, these public paid coaches should go to the community based clubs and help with coaching sessions, often in muddy, filthy conditions with poor lighting. That is the reality of life for most community-based football clubs in the capital city of Scotland. This  Saturday, December 2, the upgraded old wooden pavilion at Warriston Playing Fields will house hundreds of primary school footballers and councillor Donald Anderson has been challenged by a businessman to 'take a shower' there. If he accepts the challenge, the businessman will pay £50 to a charity of the councillor's choice. This offer is open to all councillors and it will be interesting, indeed, to see how many turn up at this poorly maintained venue. For the past two years, I have helped publicise the 'Show Racism the Red Campaigns' and I would now like to see another campaign, to 'Show Elitism, Cronyism and Favouritism the Red Card'! in this city. All of us should be sharing in any new developments. Another grotesque example of this elitism will shortly take shape when Forrester Rugby Club have a new complex built for their club's use in the new campus to be created at Forrester High School/St Augustine's High School. Salvesen Boys Club, with around 300 members, will be given the use of  'a room in the school'!

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THE campaign to unite all clubs, schools and football associations in Edinburgh - and beyond - is gathering momentum, with a possible candidate being put forward for the council elections next year in the newly created ward in which councillor Eric Milligan will represent the Labour party. This bold  move will help highlight the perceived unfairness of the Labour administration in their attitude to grass-roots football in the Capital city of Scotland compared to rugby. The recent high-profile campaigns to bring about a change in attitude have met with initial success and the Executive Member in charge of Sport in ECC, Donald Anderson, has promised £3.5m to build new changingrooms and pavilions throughout the city. The dreadful state of council-owned pitches are also earmarked for improvements and much better maintenance. But the anger and frustration among players, officials and parents of young people who play football in community-based clubs goes much deeper than bringing about improvements in facilities. There is a deep-seated anger at the unfairness of politicians in their attitude to rugby clubs compared to football and what they, rugby clubs are given - their own changingrooms/pavilions and licensed premises on education department owned land in this city - compared to the disgraceful facilities on offer to more than 20,000 football players each week. The most gross and ostentatious example of the help, incredible help, given to rugby clubs is to be found at Meggetland. The fiercely contested sell-off of land to a housing developer in exchange for the provision of sports facilities has taken a new route, where several groups, including Keep Meggetland Green and others, are questioning what appears to be an even more controversial subject - the scale of the development at Meggetland given over to Boroughmuir Rugby Club. The two dominant features I saw in a recent visit to Meggetland were of the magnificent stadium built for a private rugby club and also their quite incredible club building and the 'ugly' mass of housing currently under construction. I admit I was gobsmacked when I went inside the stadium, with its fabulous floodlighting, and then looked at the huge building with the sign 'welcome to Boroughmuir Rugby Club', the scoreboard and the sumptious seating area for fans of the rugby club. Even more bewildering to me, was the information that cllrs Eric Milligan and Brian Fallon are closely associated with this particular rugby club. Cllr Milligan is currently, the councillor for that part of Edinburgh that includes Hutchison Vale Boys Club. This famous nursery football club is massive, both in terms of members and social input into the community in which they are situated. But Vale use as their clubrooms, a dilapidated wooden building in Ford's Road, the roof is leaking and they are also charged 'business rates' for water! Club official, Les Trotter, one of the hardest working officials I have come across in my life, is furious at the lack of help given to his club by cllr Milligan, saying: "He (cllr Milligan) does nothing to help Hutchison Vale. I get far more help when I approach our MSP, Sarah Boyack, and the local community association also achieve far more for local people than cllr Milligan!" That level of frustration at his elected representative in Edinburgh City Council has prompted Mr Trotter to see if Hutchison Vale club leader, Tam Smith, would stand as a candidate to oppose cllr Milligan in the council elections. Inquiries are ongoing to find out how to go about putting forward the club leader in a political role to highlight the lack of funding for sport in community-based sports clubs throughout Edinburgh. This city has the reputation of also having the highest charges for hire of facilities in Scotland. Community-based football clubs in Edinburgh often train in borrowed light from lamposts and in shocking muddy conditions, as I witnessed recently at Leith Links, where Ian Gilbertson and his colleagues conducted a training session for one of the 600-strong Leith Athletic club teams. It was pouring rain at the time and it was even more baffling to hear that this massive community based club struggles to get access to the facilities at Leith Academy, a community-school by the way. Redpath Albion Sport Club, in Pilrig, have to fork out more than £21 an hour for the use of a school hall. And yet, cllr Robert Cairns, defends the Labour administration's record, accusing me of unfairness, in a letter, saying: "I think it is unfair (of me) to judge the council's provision of facilities on the basis of one facility in a Victorian primary school (Abbeyhill), and I should look up the totality of provison throughout the city. The council does have a strong commitment to improving facilities and while we all agree that much more should be done, a good start has been made and this will be built on!"

In an accompaning letter, from David Fenton, Head of Infrastructure and Development, he claims: "Mr Mackay's observations on the condition of outdoor faciliities in an inner-city Victorian primary school (Abbeyhill), where the local community have access to sports facilities provided by other departments, does not reflect a true picture of the sports facilities acrsss the departments estates." The ghastly-looking playground at Abbeyhill primary school is less than a mile from the £430m Parliament building! Geoff Stenhouse looks after the football team at Abbeyhill primary school and he has to pay the top rate if he wants to use the facilities at the poorly maintained Meadowbank Stadium, arguably the biggest 'slum' in Edinburgh in my opinion. How fair is that? In yet another communication sent to me, this time from the Scottish Ministers Correspondence Unit, they claim that the vast scale of neglect and deprivation of public-owned facilities over the past 60 years is not their fault. Local councils are responsible for providing facilities for sport in communities. If that is correct, then ECC must be to blame for the situation currently causing problems for Currie Youth Club football coach, Andy Strickland. This dedicated resident of Currie has been trying - for years - to get work done to create a level playing field in the virtually unused ground over the road from his club's premises in Lanark Road. Mr Strickland said: "We currently share the pitch outside our club with an amateur side. We have two teams of our own and, next season, that will increase to three teams. We have only the one pitch to share, but if the council were to level the ground on the park over the road, we could have another pitch to use for community-based sports clubs. The brick pavilion in the park just off Lanark Road is virtually unused but it would make good changingrooms if the building was renovated!" Just up the road from Currie Youth Club is Malleny Park in Balerno. That park now houses grand faciliites for Currie Rugby Club! In the next couple of years, a new shared school campus is to built on the grounds of the current Forrester High School. In the plans for the redevelopment, the massive 300-strong Salvesen Boys Club are to be given 'a room in the school' for their use. Salvesen club leader, Tom Wilson, concerned about the facilities on offer for the use of his club, said: "My main concern is that too many people will converge on a room that is inadequate to hold them all!" Meanwhile (I am not making this up), Forrester Rugby Club are to be get a complete new building for their own use, including a licensed bar!" Good luck to this tremendous club, too, but the community-based football club are far bigger than the rugby club. Why can't both clubs share in the new facilities? Why, indeed! To further highlight the current favouritism shown to rugby by councillors in this city, a new stadium is planned for Sighthill Park. The stadium, I have been told, is to for rugby and athletics - with 'the possible use for football'! And cllr Cairns thinks it is unfair for me to highlight the awful conditions at Abbeyhill primary school. I now openly challenge cllr Cairns and all his colleagues to ensure the stadium at Meggetland, built on public owned land from publc funds, is made available for use by either Hutchison Vale FC or Edingburgh City Youth FC. Vale have no 'home' pitches at Saughton Park to use, while Edinburgh City face being turfed out of the miserable Sighthill Park when the new athletics and rugby stadium is built there. I also challenge any councillor, or group of politicians, to face me at a public forum in front of an audience of community-based sports club officials to discuss the lack of civilised, clean, hygienic and modern facilities for football in this city. And, of particular interest to me, how Bouroughmuir rugby club have sole use of one of the best developments I have seen in Edinburgh - paid for out of the sale of public-owned land! And it the spokesperson from Applecross wants to take up the challenge to discuss his recent arrogant comments that appeared in Evening News, I would love to put him in the public spotlight, too. Why do I keep thinking of favouritism, cronyism and downright elitism - and from a Labour administration, too! Fortunately, for them, cllr Donald Anderson has taken a leading role in bringing up the worst faciliites up to a 'tolerable' standard and he also said: "Show Respect, Get Respect!" I respect him for the emergency work done so far at Warriston and Double Hedges, where Liberton Rugby Club have their own building, including licensed premises! At present, I am still awaiting details of the development at Meggetland and other matters, following my request to Chief Executive of Edinburgh Council, Tom Aitchison, under the Freedom of Information Act!

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Blame City for selling off our green spaces

Children don't get a sporting chance

Liam Rudden

ĎASK yourself a simple question - can you still walk and play on the same green land that you did as a child? If the answerís no, then you can begin to appreciate the size of the problem and the way that recreational space is disappearing."

So said John Tunnah, the secretary of the National Playing Fieldsí Association in Scotland, when it was revealed that one football pitch was being lost every 20 days to developers in Scotland.

That was eight years ago, at a time when the Scottish Office pledged to stop the sell- off of playing fields in its latest bid to get more children off the couch and into sport.

Eight years on, it seems not a lot has changed - and Edinburghís sporting land is continuing to dwindle. The latest blow is the three hectares of Meggetland which have been sold off to developers despite massive public opposition.

The Scottish Executive has just agreed that a quarter of the 12 hectares of the playing fields should go to a housing developer because of the "significant" benefits of the deal - which means the bill for a multi-million pound package of improvements to the sports facilities at Meggetland will be met by Applecross in return for land on which to build 170 flats.

Yet the land which is being sold is currently used by ten schools in the city, from Boroughmuir and Tynecastle high schools to Tollcross and South Morningside primaries - and thatís before you start counting the amateur sports clubs who play there too.

But the deal - the first of its kind - is a benchmark decision that could sound the death knell for the Capitalís other recreational playing fields. And as 20,000 new houses need to be built in Edinburgh in the next few years to cope with the population boom, it puts the future of the few remaining green spaces into doubt.

Stewart McLaughlan, chairman of the National Playing Fieldsí Association Scot-land (NPFAS), says: "I would be very surprised if, within the city of Edinburgh, a minimum of ten per cent of recreational space, whether parks or playing fields, hasnít been lost over the last 20 years.

"Now the Executiveís decision over Meggetland has driven a horse and cart through the national planning policy guidelines which state that any significant loss of playing field space must be replaced - titivating local areas and pitches that are currently in a poor state isnít enough."

He adds: "This decision has set a precedent by clearly deciding that the improvements to Meggetland justify the loss of recreational space. Itís a quick-fix approach that sells future generations short.

"As a teacher myself, I believe there is a degree of inconsistency, if not hypocrisy, in saying that you are concerned for the health of urban dwellers, young people in particular, while on the other hand taking away the outlets that allow then to improve their health by getting exercise." So just how much recreational space used by schools and sporting associations has disappeared? Itís an easy question, but answering it is proving difficult for the caretakers of such space - Edinburgh City Council.

The last full review of playing fields by the local authority was in 1992 by the former Lothian Regional Council, and since local government reorganisation that report seems to have disappeared. And an audit which was supposed to be completed at the end of last year is still under way.

But in 1995, a survey by the NPFAS revealed 456 acres of recreational space - thatís 350 football pitches worth - had vanished in Edinburgh between 1983 and 1992. Then two years ago, a report by the Scottish School of Sports Studies at Strathclyde University proved that children at one in seven Scottish secondary schools no longer had access to a grass playing field and that almost 40 per cent of schools did not have a football pitch.

City officials will admit though that more than 40 acres of open space - a further 31 pitches - has been lost in Edinburgh in the last five years, including ten acres at Hawkhill playing fields in the north-east of the city gone for housing, almost seven acres at the former Firrhill High playing fields in the south-west built on by a supermarket chain and three sports pitches swallowed up at Gyle Park by the private David Lloyd sports centre.

Other recreational ground sold off includes two acres at Drumbrae Park for Drumbrae Leisure Centre; 1.5 acres of land at Gracemount for a swimming pool and 0.94 of an acre at Liberton Brae for a medical practice. Prior to this there were 4.3 acres of land at Kirk Brae which went for housing, halving the land available for sport; 115 houses were built on sports grounds at Liberton Gardens; a super-market was built on Portobello Road on the former Jockís Lodge playing fields; and land has also disappeared at Myreside, Ferryfield and North Meggetland.

Currently, Craigmount High is seeing its old playing fields developed as its new school buildings are constructed. But while it will have three new grass pitches and an artificial pitch at the end of the day, the actual spaces in acres will be reduced for housing development. A similar situation is happening at Gracemount High School.


Two decades of land lost to developers

Football park at Portobello BottleWorks, Baileyfield. Now a welter of warehousing and depots.

Morgan recreation ground, Peffermill. Was used by Moray House and other educational establishments for rugby, tennis, etc. Now housing on westerly fringe, but mostly wilderness.

Jockís Lodge, Piershill. Was the sporting home of Royal High and former pupilsí clubs. Now a Safeway supermarket and petrol station with separate housing development.

Holyrood. Was a small ground on the edge of Holyrood Park with room for two pitches used by Royal High in addition to facilities at Jockís Lodge. Now the HQ for the Royal Park Constabulary and for various temporary erections during construction of the parliament building.

Hawkhill recreation ground. Was used by Leith Academy and Academicals and others, a vast, windswept area for various sports. Now an extensive housing develop-ment - named Academy Park - plus a medical centre and care centre.

Ferryfield. Was a meadow owned by Melville College. Now a major housing development.

Gipsy Brae. Was a windswept grassland for rugby and football on the Firth of Forth between Granton and Silverknowes. While still labelled as recreation ground, the conditions say otherwise.

Crewe Toll. Once there were facilities for tennis, bowls, rugby and football for employees of Ferranti, whose factories were nearby, and visitors. Now the site of WM Company, a Deutsche Bank subsidiary.

An ancillary pitch for Ferranti was set up amid council housing in Muir-house. Now ground is untraceable.

At Ravelston Dykes there was a peaceful field where hockey and lacrosse was played. Now housing.

Meggetland. Seemingly endless ground used for wide variety of sports by schools and Boroughmuir rugby club. Now a quarter of the land will be developed for housing.

Canal Field at North Meggetland. Was an Edinburgh University ground. Now extensive housing.

Grayís Loan. Was home to Westhall Lawn Tennis Club, which long ago served notice to quit. Now housing.

Craighouse. There was a single football pitch in the shadow of former psychiatric hospital, now a campus of Napier University. Now exclusive housing (Meadowspot) with amenity grassland (one pitchís worth) set aside as playground.

Double Hedges Road, Kirk Brae, Liberton. Was two rugby pitches, also used by hockey teams, and a grass running track. Now half of it is housing although Liberton FP Rugby Club play on the land that was left.

Colinton Mains Road. Formerly extensive grassland used by regiments stationed in Redford Barracks and by Firrhill High. Now a Tesco supermarket on one fringe, housing and other developments.

Gyle. Once football pitches. Now the David Lloyd leisure club.

Turnhouse: Once there were football and rugby pitches and other sports facilities for use of servicemen based at the RAF station and visitors. Now itís overgrown in the wake of the demise of the air station

 

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