More than 200 children have been turned away from a Caroline Springs soccer club in the past two years because requests for upgraded training grounds have been knocked back by Melton council, the club says.
Westside Strikers Football Club has been training at the Brookside Recreation Reserve for the past four years, sharing the grounds with the nearby primary school, Australian Rules football clubs, cricket clubs and another soccer club.
With the club’s number of players growing to 400, president Sam Raniolo says it has outgrown the facilities and grounds, which are dotted with potholes, patchy grass and synthetic turf.
The club was advised Melton council would resurface the grounds, Mr Raniolo said, but it was later decided council’s maintenance officers would visit Brookside Recreation Reserve weekly to patch up the potholes.
But, on a recent visit to the grounds by Star Weekly, it appeared the holes had merely been filled with loose soil.
“Kids have tripped over these holes and some of the older kids have hurt their ankles,” Mr Raniolo said.
Up to nine teams train on the grounds the same time, when its maximum capacity should be five, according to Mr Raniolo.
There are only two changerooms for the club’s 28 teams – five are for girls’ teams, leaving one changeroom for 23 boys teams.
Those rooms each have two toilets and two showers.
“We accepted one brother, but had to turn away the other because we just don’t have room,” Mr Raniolo said. “That just broke my heart.
“When the club started, they only had around 250 people so it was manageable. Probably in the last two to three years, it’s become a real big issue.” Melton community services acting manager Matthew Wilson said the council spent about $500,000 three years ago to extend the original building at Brookside Recreation Reserve, which included providing female-friendly “amenities”.
Mr Wilson said officers visited the site twice a week to fill holes with approved turf sand.
“Council is also investigating the possibility of using change facilities at the adjacent secondary school for community sporting use, to increase access,” Mr Wilson said.
“Council will consider all expressions of interests for the use of the sports facilities at Aintree [estate], once they are handed over by the private developer to be managed by Melton City Council.”
A Football Federation of Victoria spokesman said it was “vital” for soccer clubs to have access to proper facilities and that they were working with all levels of government for clubs to get access to funding.