THE stand off between Portrush Youths and Coleraine Council took another twist this week as children were forced to train in near darkness after floodlights at Parker Avenue were removed.
The lights were removed from the pitch last Monday which meant the kids had to train on Wednesday night with the aid of their parents car lights!
As we reported last week the council told Portrush Youths that they would no longer be able to use the pitch for training as it was against policy.
The council cited that it could cause damage to the surface and force league games to be cancelled.
Last week though club officials were contacted by the council who offered to supply two buses every week to transport the kids to a facility in Coleraine.
“We couldn’t believe it,” said club spokesperson Jim Blee.
“That’s two buses and two drivers 30 weeks a year, which would cost thousands of pounds.
“It is not feasible as it would take up to an extra hour of children’s time each evening. It would mean children as young as seven not getting home until 9pm. As I said we would also question the sustainability of this long term and question is the best use of public funds.”
Jim told Times Sport the children were left disappointed that the lights had been taken down forcing them to train in viirtual darkness.
“When we turned up for training on Wednesday after the lights had been taken away the kids were gutted and the parents were very angry,” said Jim.
“If there was a health and safety issue last week then surely it should have been a health and safety issue when the lights were erected three years ago. Why weren’t they taken down then?
“This comes in a week when Northern Ireland had such a fantastic result in Portugal, kids are motivated by performances like that and then they are hit by something like this.
“The kids are our future Northern Ireland internationals, but where will they come from if we can’t even have the right facilities to train?
“I’m sure Portuguese kids don’t have to train in the dark!”
Portrush Youths are planning to lobby local councillors this week as a decision on the training issue is imminent.
“Our aim as a club is to provide a safe environment for children to enjoy sport and express themselves. We are sure that this is also the aim of Coleraine Borough Council and our elected representatives to first of all support Portrush Youths FC in seeking an interim exception to the policy,” added Jim.