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Acton youth team loses access to playing field following dispute

The green at Acton Village Hall where dog fouling is a problem.'Pic - Richard Marsham
The green at Acton Village Hall where dog fouling is a problem.'Pic - Richard Marsham

The long-term future of a youth football team appears uncertain, after it lost its home field following a dispute between its coach and the village hall committee.

AFC Acton, a non-profit under-10s team, had access to train and play at the village hall playing field removed, after its coach and founder Stefan Robson repeatedly withheld payment of the fees to use it – which Mr Robson says is due to his frustration with persistent dog fouling.

Mr Robson, a full-time football coach, formed the team last summer, agreeing to pay £5 a week to the Acton Playing Field and Village Hall Association to use the field and the hall’s facilities.

But the team coaches and players encountered large quantities of dog mess on and around the pitch every week, and Mr Robson said he had informed the association and then withheld paying the fees when he felt not enough was being done to address the matter.

However, the association says payments had been withheld for months before any mention of dog fouling had been made, and felt the repeated refusals to pay what it thought was a nominal sum was an “abuse of good will”.

Mr Robson told the Free Press: “It started getting really annoying when it was every week without fail. Parents were there telling the children to watch out for dog mess.

“They are fully in support of why I didn’t pay. People are absolutely disgusted.

“It’s a health and safety risk, at the end of the day.

“If it was a public field, I would understand, but it’s owned by the village hall. It’s down to them to look after the field. But there has been nothing done whatsoever.”

He added the team has since struggled to find an alternative location.

In response, Susan Chaplin, chairman of the Acton Playing Field and Village Hall Association, said she knew there had been dog fouling issues, but other than the dog bin and signage in place, the association could not do any more, other than install a fence, which she said would be unpopular and expensive.

“I’m afraid I think this is an excuse because he didn’t pay,” she said. “We asked him to pay and we had an exchange of emails. He said he couldn’t afford it and this went on for some time.

“We wanted the team because when the hall was built, part of the money came from the Football Foundation. We were happy to have the team, but we felt he abused our goodwill.

“It’s going to be difficult to resolve. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but I’m saying he has to meet us halfway.”

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