OPEN LETTER TO LAMBETH COUNCIL
To whom it may concern at Lambeth Council,
We were very pleased to read the Chairman of the Southern Sunday Football League, Graham Rodber’s open letter to Lambeth Council (1), the providers of Clapham Common football pitch hire. The letter drew attention to discriminatory issues, we ourselves have experienced last weekend.
We are writing this second letter in solidarity with the Southern Sunday Football League, and to add weight to their requests. We would, in addition to their requests, ask that all fixed penalty notice (FPN) fines from Saturday 5th September and subsequent weekends when the toilet facilities have been closed are cancelled or refunded.
On Saturday 5th September, before our football match, one of our players (Wanderers Women Football Club) was heavily, and disproportionately, fined (£150) for discretely urinating in the bushes on Clapham Common at 10.49am. The FPN was issued by two ‘Environment Officers’ working on behalf of Lambeth Council who were prowling the area, for all intents and purposes, to make some quick cash for the council. The changing room and toilet facilities were all locked despite hundreds of people playing football on the common having booked and paid for facilities, like ourselves. Our players had also attempted to use facilities at the local café on the common, where the toilet was also locked.
It beggars belief that Lambeth Council can offer a service, without basic facilities such as a toilet; forcing players with no other choice but to relieve themselves on the common. It is of course not something our players want to do, or feel comfortable doing, and is something we have complained about to the pitch providers many times before. The provision of basic services, including toilet facilities and separate women's changing areas, is actually one of the key reasons that Wanderers Women ceased playing on Clapham Common in recent years.
Now we have returned after several years and, unsurprisingly, face the exact same issues as before. Now add to this, the council taking the highly unethical action of hiring environment officers to seek out those who are caught short.
As highlighted by Mr. Rodber in his letter, this is discriminatory against people with disabilities in particular. We also strongly believe that matters such as this remain a significant barrier for women accessing football. Women have specific and unique needs compared to men, as highlighted in a recent BBC Sport survey which draws attention to the need for better facilities for women in sport at both the professional and grassroots level (2).
As you know, in 2018 Lambeth Council made a display of unveiling their ‘complete refurbishment’ of the facilities at Clapham, having received funding from FIFA specifically to better facilities there (particularly on an inclusivity-basis for women) (3). The ‘complete refurbishment’ was, to put it mildly, extremely underwhelming, but at least, when unlocked, there was a functioning toilet; this is the absolute minimum we should expect when booking the pitches. There is no excuse for charging teams to hire the facilities at the same rate as before when there are not even toilets available during the hours of hire.
The constant fight for facilities at Clapham is unacceptable for everyone paying to play there, but also still remains discriminatory against people with disabilities and women. We strongly believe that this needs to be addressed if a pitch hire service is being provided.
We would also like to make you aware that this letter will be made public on the Wanderers social media platforms and will be shared with media outlets, councillors, members of parliament and football authorities.
Officers and Players of Wanderers Football Club and Wanderers Women's Football Club