Netballers cry foul over court refusal

Netball players were in dispute with Blackpool Sports Centre over the use of the outside courts, which have been revamped at a cost of �16,000
Netball players were in dispute with Blackpool Sports Centre over the use of the outside courts, which have been revamped at a cost of �16,000

Netball players have been told they can’t pay to play indoors at Blackpool Sports Centre because cash has been splashed on six outside courts – despite concern over their safety in poor weather.

The council has spent thousands of pounds on anti-slip surfacing on the Stanley Park courts and said it now wants teams in the Fylde Netball League to use them.

Netball players are currently in dispute with Blackpool Sports Centre over the use of the outside courts, which have been revamped at a cost of �16,000

Netball players are currently in dispute with Blackpool Sports Centre over the use of the outside courts, which have been revamped at a cost of �16,000

But bosses there said they want to continue playing indoors from October to March because of worries over maintenance and floodlighting – leading to an unusual standoff that has left some teams threatening to quit.

League secretary Barbara Jackson said: “It’s almost like we are second rate and we don’t matter. Our money is as good as anybody’s.”

Ms Jackson said the asphalt courts had a green anti-slip paint applied at a cost of £16,000 in a bid to make them safer to play on in the rain.

The pitches have been approved by Netball England, The Gazette understands.

When you play indoors it costs more but people would rather that and know they are safe

But Ms Jackson said water still pools on the surface, and said only a handful of bulbs in the floodlights work.

That, combined with wet leaves and dog muck, means the courts are ‘not safe to play on’, she said.

“People can’t risk injury through courts not being maintained or lights not being on,” she said. “It’s crazy.”

Ms Jackson said the league turned down the chance to play indoors all year round, which would have worked out more expensive, but was refused a block-booking of the four months over winter, in what she claimed was a ‘commercial decision’.

She added: “They are not saying they have somebody else who wants it, they just say we can’t book.

“The Fylde Netball League has its 60th anniversary next year.

“Can you imagine how much money we have paid over all these years?”

One netball player yesterday said the new anti-slip coating is ‘still really bad’.

She said: “It has not helped. When you play indoors it costs more, but people would rather that and know they are safe.”

And a team, in an email signed by several players, wrote: “We feel it isn’t fair that we should be forced to play outside when the courts are not maintained adequately, the new ‘all weather’ surface is still very slippery in poor weather, which often causes people to fall and injure themselves, the lighting is inadequate with some of the lights not even working effectively.

“We are supposed to be encouraging people to get back to sport, and this drive is especially focusing on getting women back into sport.”

Opposition leader at the town hall, Tony Williams, added: “If the sports hall is available, they should go ahead and let them use it.”

Coun Maria Kirkland, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure Services, said: “Blackpool Council worked closely with England Netball in 2016 to identify funding to resurface the six outdoor netball courts on Stanley Park to improve playing standards.

“England Netball were able to provide funding of £8,030 towards the project while the remaining £8,030 was funded by Blackpool Council.

“Following the £16,060 investment in the outdoor netball courts, it was expected that Fylde Netball League would return to their original outdoor playing venue for the full 12 months of the year from September 2017.

“We remain committed to working with the Fylde Netball league to allow its players to continue to access netball opportunities locally.”