Vicky Park Rangers FC train four groups of girls under the age of 16 and won a contract with Tower Hamlets Council to train at Stepney Green Astro earlier this year. The club supports sixty three young girls.
It was a competitive bidding process but they were eager to use the facilities which include floodlights enabling girls to train safely in the evenings.
David Drewett, 28, is League Coach for under 13s and said that the change would be detrimental for the wellbeing of the girls involved. “It was very emotional for them to turn up expecting to train and then be told no,” he said. “For some of these girls, football is a release from life, to forget home life and school and focus on playing sports with their friends.”
Mother of one of the girls affected, Gaby Kaiser, 51, hit out at the decision, adding: “My daughter is very ambitious. Her aim is to be a lioness and play for Arsenal,” she said. “They were dismissive when they were approached saying that they knew the mayor.”
When approached for comment Tower Hamlets Council cited a processing error and said: “To help manage the high demand for astro-pitch hire, applications for its use are scored against a set criteria.
“In this case, a processing error meant that Vicky Park Rangers were originally given a slot which was intended for another group and this was corrected as soon as possible.
“We understand and apologise for the upset and disruption caused to Vicky Park Rangers and we understand that people may be concerned over the handling of this pitch hire. We will continue to work with Vicky Park Rangers to find a solution.”
However, Mr Drewett said the statement was “not factually correct.” He said that VPR received additional points for being an affiliated club that plays in a league and works with young girls. “They’re saying they made an error, but that’s nothing to do with us, they made an agreement with us and they haven’t told us how they will redeem that contract that we went through an application process to win.”
Some of the girls were affected by the change with Mr Drewett saying only half turned up to their training which he had arranged at a local park at an earlier time than usual due to the absence of floodlights. “Some of the girls on the team have additional needs,” he said. “One girl has been unable to turn up as she has anxiety about changes and take some time to process. We took weeks to help her get used to the idea of training at Stepney Green, and now she can’t come.”
Tower Hamlets Council cited “protective characteristics” which were not considered at the applicaton stage as a reason for reneging on their promise after a complaint against the initial award was made. They said there was “a need to increase usage for this particular community group.”