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Debt-ridden football ground forced to play tough

Tuesday 15th October 2019

KINGS HILL players are facing an unceremonial fall from grace after the owners of its football ground announced the site will be going ‘back to basics’ after maintenance bills has seen debts rise to more than £200,000.

Kings Hill Parish Council which leases the sporting facility and manages day-to-day operations at the sports park in Beacon Avenue says after a year of cost cutting, council taxpayers can’t be expected to fund the high-spec site in line with the original contract requirements demanded by Ebbsfleet United – now that the team has moved on. The club, which hired the ground for two seasons, left in 2018. The parish council says it had been wrong to endeavour to maintain the ground to such a high standard without the fees from the Ebbsfleet side. Last year this situation netted a £150,000 loss for the parish council and another £70,000 so far this year.

It insists the ground has to return to a “grass-roots level ground” to stay on budget and is calling for the teams that use the ground to remain on-side.

A spokesman for the council said the council tried to secure bookings with other semi-professional sides without success. To continue such a high level of pitch maintenance with no additional income had inevitably left the Sports Park with severe financial implications, as community hire fees had not been able to cover the cost.

Kings Hill Football Club was due to here the news at a meeting with the parish council at lunch time today.

The council says it does not anticipate any redundancies but will be stipulating more basic requirements of its contractors to protect the future of the ground. There will also be a reduction in the subsidies offered to specific hirers and the removal of the priority bookings system, to allow the maximum use of the facility.

Parish council chairman Sarah Barker said she appreciated local teams that use the pitch and facilities will have grown used to performing in a semi-professional environment and would be disappointed by the decision. However, a hard line has been needed to run the ground in a more sustainable way.

She said: “The Sports Park was set up to be a community facility and we must adjust our operations to suit its intended purpose. We will be expanding the sports available at the park to include rugby, tennis and netball.  All of which will be available to all and will contribute to the running costs of the facility. 

“Groups can still apply for subsidies from the parish council but this must be through the proper channels and assessed against the criteria and budget available.”