The future of Sunday league football in Melton is in the balance after the closure of a long-term facility led to a chronic shortage of pitches.
Melton and District Sunday League has been forced to suspend all fixtures after the borough council told teams they could no longer use the changing facilities for Redwood Avenue’s two pitches.
The move left the league with just three available pitches and forced several matches to be postponed before the league bowed to the inevitable and suspended its programme.
League secretary Vinny Musson said: “Our league is on hold. We can’t really run a league with three pitches for eight teams.
“As a committee we are trying to struggle through to the end of the season and see what happens. Then we will have a review of what can be done.”
The pavilion, within Melton Country Park, was condemned in the spring and was earmarked for demolition.
Mr Musson claims the four teams which used the site were promised two replacement pitches within Melton Sports Village in time for September.
“We were told multiple times by two or three different people within the council that pitches would be ready for the start of season,” he said.
“But there are still no pitches ready for us and we have been told we are no longer allowed down at Redwood Avenue.
“All the fixtures had been sorted out with locations and referees, and now we have got to go back and rearrange games and try and get teams to play in the odd afternoon game.
“Unless teams are willing to compromise over where and when they play, we will have to fold.”
Melton Council’s Leisure and Culture Client officer Steve Taylor took on the case recently and said attempts to help the league relocate will continue.
“We have contacted so many different places to try and get another pitch for them, but unfortunately we haven’t found any,” he said.
“We are working as hard as we can to provide facilities, but it’s taking time and it’s proving really difficult at this time of year.
“We did ask if they would consider afternoon kick-offs, because we would have something for them in that case, but we know players have families and potentially they won’t want to play on Sunday afternoons.
There were 23 pitches within the borough for Sunday football just eight years ago according to Mr Musson, and the shortage is putting a strain on the league’s ability to attract new teams and retain its current line-up.
“We had three new teams signed up with the FA to play in our league, but then they folded because there wasn’t enough pitches around Melton,” he added.
“A team from Sileby wanted to join our league next year, but then heard all the commotion and decided not to join.”
Melton Council has pledged to help develop sport in the town through its ambitious new complex, based at the former King Edward VII School site off Burton Road, which is in its planning stages.
The move followed concerns from sports groups and clubs about the shortage of facilities in the town, particularly following the closure of the leisure centre to public use in 2010.
“The plan is to bring all the football together at Melton Sports Village,” Mr Taylor added.
“We have two pitches being developed there and pulled together another from nothing, but it was too narrow.
“We don’t want people not to be able to play football; my role within the council is to get as many people fit and active as possible.
“We are still working with the FA and will continue to try and help the league.”