Professional football must love Mayor Anderson. He was quick to buy Everton’s training ground at Finch Farm in Knowsley. Then he bobbed up with a scheme to devastate Walton Park with a new stadium for the same club. Having now done a deal with Liverpool to provide privileged parking on a council-owned site, for high rollers buying into their new stand, he is now glad-handing the very top of the professional tree.
Meeting with Greg Dyke, head of the Football Association, he has announced millions of our money for they and the Premier League to refurbish football facilities around the city. He does not say from where the money will come. Could it be the council’s missing Section 106 money, which is supposed to be ring-fenced for parks and open spaces? Nor does he say what the Merseyside Youth Association and its members think . After all, they have long term leases on three of the four proposed sites.
True to form, council tax payers and user amateur football clubs will be presented with a fait accompli. I am in no doubt that residents around at least two of the sites will be concerned; and that user amateurs will have to fork out excessive fees to use the facilities.
This is inevitable as once again the council – aka Mayor Anderson – is proposing that the responsibility for these “new” facilities be given to a “trust”. These have become the cure-all for formerly council-held responsibilities. The problem is that these trusts have no funds, and so will need to charge enough to pay for the upkeep of the facilities passed on to them. This is bound to hit those least able to pay.
We all want to see improved sport and leisure facilities but not to the disadvantage of those least able to afford them. It is notable that our city is the national pilot for this football joint venture. In a year when the professional game is raking in record billions, the mayor is committing cash-strapped Liverpool to subsidise a sport which is already bleeding the public dry for the benefit of a handful of millionaire owners and players. Is this the city’s civic priority, roundabout handouts to the rich?