THE chairman of Wellington Football Club has allayed fears that access to the playing field is going to be closed off every time there is a match being played.

The Wellington Weekly News carried a front page story in last week’s paper where it said that public access would be closed off during matches at the Wellington Playing Field – unless you pay the £6 admission price to watch the footie action even if you just want to walk through.

But club chairman Mike Hall told members of Wellington Town Council’s policy and finance committee on Monday (July 8) that the need to close off the access to public would only happen a handful of times between 1.30pm and 5pm on a Saturday afternoon.

There had been a perception that it would be for every home game involving the first-team – up to about 20 league and cup fixtures a season – to meet with Football Association regulations.

The club is in the premier division of the Western League and rents the playing field from Somerset Council, although the ownership will switch to the town council next year.

FA regulations state that teams at Wellington’s level need to have a “closed ground” whereby only paying spectators were allowed in. It would mean, in Wellington’s case, that the three access points to the playing field from the North Street car park, Beech Grove and Court Drive would have to be closed off for general public access during games.

Mr Hall told councillors: “We need to demonstrate to the FA that we have the ability to restrict access. We would have to restrict access for matches involving national competitions like the FA Cup and FA Vase, plus games which might attract a larger crowd.

“I think most other occasions would be fine, but over the course of the season we might have to close it off about half a dozen times.”

The club has previously got around the rule about a “closed ground” by escorting members of the public through the playing field while a game was on, but now it was needed to be on a more formal basis but with common sense added-in.

Wellington Town Council was being asked to comment on the situation by its colleagues at Somerset Council.

The Mayor, Cllr Janet Lloyd, was quick to criticise the Wellington Weekly News article from last week.

“This situation was totally blown out of proportion by the local press,” she said. 

Cllr Justin Cole, looking at the wider long-term picture, added: “We should support this. Do we want to support this club to play at a higher level – that’s a question for the future.”

But Cllr John Thorne said: “I’m not happy about this. The club has taken the decision and not bothered about the rest of the town.

“It seems all a bit vague to me. Half a dozen games doesn’t seem too much, but it could be every game.”

Councillors voted 6-1 in favour of supporting the proposal with Cllr Thorne the only objecting voice.