A SOCCER organisation has defended its decision to lock players’ change rooms.
The manager of Wayne Richards Park – Football Mid-North Coast – has this week responded to complaints, which circulated among the field’s users, that players were forced to change outside.
Hundreds of people, including male and female players, arrive at the field on Friday nights when about a dozen local teams play.
Port Macquarie Football Club, Port Saints Football Club and Port Macquarie United Soccer Club share the ground.
Football Mid-North Coast manager Larry Budgen said he was aware of some complaints. but there were good reasons the change room was locked.
Prior vandalism, a shortage of alternative storage and the multiple clubs at the field were contributing factors, he said.
The toilets – in a separate building – would remain open, he said.
“It’s obviously becoming an issue, but there are three clubs that use it and there’s the question of who would have responsibility for closing it at the end of the night, and who would be responsible for cleaning them,” Mr Budgen said.
“It’s not just Wayne Richards Park – on a lot of grounds the full amenities are not always available.”
The change rooms are located about 50m from the field, blocked from the sight of most spectators, officials and canteen staff. But spectator Jeff Jenkins said it was unacceptable to lock the facility.
The 41-year-old from Port Macquarie has watched dozens of soccer games at the field, including those in which his niece played, and said there were increasing numbers of spectators and players who felt the same.
Football associations paid to use the facilities, he said.
“It’s been locked for a long time, but it has just become ridiculous now – there are so many teams using the field,” Mr Jenkins said. It’s embarrassing for other teams to come and see that Port Macquarie can’t use its own change rooms. All it needs is one person to open it up.”
Mr Jenkins said he felt girls in particular should be able to make use of the change room and have some privacy.
But Mr Budgen said AFL and cricket equipment are being stored in the change rooms, too.
He said yesterday he planned to discuss the issue with club president Graham Pilkie.
“If it’s left open, even during the game, then it’s all unsecured,” he said.
Mr Pilkie told the Port News he had not received an official complaint and “didn’t know it was an issue”, but he was open to feedback.
He said he had, in the past, cleaned mess left by vandals.
“There are a lot of people up there watching games and it is away from club officials and others who may police it,” Mr Pilkie said. “We can’t leave them open to vandalism and stealing.
"We’ve got a lot of equipment in there that could just walk, it makes it difficult,” he said. “We’re always open to negotiate with clubs and most of the time we can work something out.”