TEENAGE troublemakers at Saddleworth Pool and Leisure Centre have landed Oldham Council a five-figure repair bill and deprived other youngsters of cheap games of football.
Staff have been verbally abused and police regularly called to deal with rising levels of anti-social behaviour and vandalism at Saddleworth Pool and Leisure Centre.
It has now resulted in leisure bosses reviewing the arrangements for pitch hire at the popular facility.
The change angered one local mum who says the only alternative now for a kick about for her son and his group of friends are “quagmires”.
Previously, youngsters would pay £1.50 for a wrist band and be allowed to use the three 3G surfaces.
This arrangement has now been scrapped. Instead, pitches will only become available to a minimum of eight youngsters, who all have to hold Active Oldham membership.
A spokesperson for Oldham Community Leisure told the Independent: “The previous arrangement of the band process was not practical.
“In recent months this arrangement has been abused. The level of vandalism and anti-social behaviour by these groups has been significant.
“A repair to the fencing, costing the Council circa £17k is partly due to this abuse of the arrangements.
“A small handful would pay the £1.50 then large numbers would join the group without paying anything.
“When challenged by the staff they would face a barrage of abuse and refusal to pay or move on. Police were called numerous times during this time.
“The changes outlined of asking the children to register their details by becoming an Active card member and having a min number players is a way to try reduce the vandalism and anti-social behaviour, protect the new fencing and ensure these sessions will continue with those who genuinely want to participate.”
Disappointed mum Emma Howard previously contacted the Independent to confirm the tightening of regulations has left no dry or mud free places for well behaved youths to play.
“My son used to go often with his friends. I would drop them off, have a coffee in Uppermill and pick them up an hour later,” she explained.
“Apparently, as ever, some delinquent behaviour now seems to have spoiled it for the majority.
“Obviously to arrange eight kids, who are all members of the gym, and all friends and all wish to play at the same time is never going to happen which I suspect was the point,” she added.
“I have seen the large pitch used by coaches for their teams. And I am sure all of those kids do not have gym memberships.
“I have not seen the two smaller pitches anything but empty since.
“These kids have nowhere else to play in Saddleworth that isn’t a quagmire.
“The move is obviously to make more money from more formal hiring of pitches and was obviously going to make it impossible for kids to play ad hoc.
“What is wrong with a parent signing in kids and staying to supervise?”