THE chairman of Stand Athletic has accused council bosses of “shabby treatment” by effectively blowing the whistle on its ground after nearly 40 years.

Weeks of uncertainty surrounding the future of the town’s popular Elms Park have climaxed with the shock news that the deteriorating pavilion will be imminently closed down pending demolition.

And this means that Stand Athletic and other teams which have used the park will be forced to seek a new home as from next season.

The decision follows a crunch meeting held last month between club officials, ward councillors and local residents.

Earlier, there had been growing concern among neighbours in nearby George Street over nuisance and noise surrounding Elms Park and the condition of the pavilion and changing rooms.

Bury Council have also indicated there are no funds at present to build any new amenities in the park to safeguard its role as a soccer facility. Stand Athletic had been using Elms Park since 1969 and in 1993 were the first club to be given self-management status by the local authority. Stand invested £20,000 in new dressing rooms and other improvements.

The self-management status switched in 2003 when the council recommended Stand Athletic transfer the lease to Stand Juniors.

At last month’s meeting, the only other alternative to the shutting of the pavilion was to have the club regain the self-management status.

Club chairman Tony Airey has now been told by council bosses that the pavilion is being closed and demolished. And the local authority has also stressed: “At this point in time there are no funds for alternative accommodation being made available at Elms.”

Mr Airey said: “Because of what’s happening to the pavilion, we’re left with a facility which is no use to anybody.

“The local authority will maintain, no doubt, that it is still available for football. But without running water even the most basic first aid treatment is impossible.

“Without toilets and changing rooms —would you want to see 30 men getting stripped in a field? Or looking for somewhere to answer a call of nature?

“I think the council has treated everyone shabbily.

“I feel sorry for local footballers. This isn’t just about Stand Athletic. This is about a facility which has hosted football in Whitefield for half a century for players of all ages.

“I believe that what has happened now is due to pressure from residents.”

And the chairman also claims that Bury Council had made up its mind prior to last month’s meeting.

Mr Airey added: “I think the decision to kick football off Elms Park had been made before the residents’ meeting. The meeting was merely a charade, a failed attempt by the council to shift the blame on to local people. Nobody at the meeting said ‘stop the football’.

“I think there are still broader and more serious questions to be answered — not least why the local authority have allowed the site to deteriorate, and why, having been culpable in its dereliction, they have no funds to invest in improving the facilities. I think that is abdication of responsibility.”

Stand Athletic have already secured an alternative home ground in Salford. But two other sides, Cross Keys and Elms Juniors, will also be forced to find a new pitch before the new season gets under way.

Mark Shoreman, secretary of Cross Keys which plays in the Bury Sunday League, said: “We are absolutely gutted by this decision and, like Stand Athletic, we can’t understand it either. We’ve had virtually no notice, given that the new season is just weeks away.”

l Have your say on this story – prestwichandwhitefieldguide.co.uk