VICTORIA Cricket Club could be forced to withdraw from the NCU if issues over the use of Lurgan Park aren’t resolved very soon.

With only four weeks until the club begin their outdoor practice, the cricketers had been stumped by the council’s refusal to meet with them with regards the price increase for use of the facilities in the park.

In February the club brought a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the council to protest at the proposed price hike which would see Victoria’s bill for use of leisure facilities go up by 575%.

However, since the club formally rejected the proposals they say nothing has been resolved.

Club Treasurer Matthew Parks told the ‘MAIL’: “We still have no indication what price increase the council are going to impose on us.

“Leisure services have refused to meet us and agree a price for the 2012 season. Whenever the price which we are charged is announced, we will be left with very little time to find an alternative ground if we are unable to afford the price increase, and may result in us being forced to withdraw from the NCU for the season.

“The only reason for the price increase that has been disclosed to us is that electricity has increased. As cricket is a summer sport, there is not a great deal of need for electricity, except for when teams are changing, and for boiling water for the tea break.”

Matthew said: “While we appreciate that the rate over the last number of years has been reasonable, I think that this reflects the fact that we carry out a number of duties ourselves, and buy a lot of the equipment required for cricket to take place.

The price cannot be compared directly to the hire of the football facilities as we prepare for the match ourselves. This includes opening the facilities, placing the stumps, marking the 30 yard circle, placing the boundary markers, erecting the safety rope, erecting the safety signs at each corner of the ground and placing sightscreens at each end of the ground

“These duties take six to eight Victoria members 20 to 30 minutes before every game. This time is also required after the game to take the things in, plus time needed to clean the pavilion and lock up.

“When these price rises are implemented, these are duties that a paid member of council staff will have to undertake causing greater expense to the council.

“On top of these extra duties, on average, Victoria have spent £430 a year on equipment needed for the ground or for matches.

“I don’t believe that the council have taken this into consideration. Will the council go to the extra expense of buying the equipment which is needed - a lot of which Victoria already own.”

The ‘MAIL’ understands the situation involving Victoria Cricket Club and Craigavon Council has come about because council want to bring about a level playing field for teams who hire council facilities. As it currently stands Victoria do no pay as much as other clubs for facility hire. With this in mind, council are looking at a phased increase over three years.

A council spokesperson explained: “Members requested officers to re-examine charges for all clubs who pay an initial fee and have unlimited use of playing fields and pavilions.

“This was due to lobbying by clubs like Victoria Cricket Club who indicated that they would have difficulty in raising the required proposed amount of money.

“Members listened carefully and, subject to ratification by council, instructed officers to bring forward any increased costs on a phased basis.

“Members had recognised that Victoria pay less than other clubs for the use of council facilities but to avoid a significant rise in year one costs, they proposed officers bring forward an option to smooth the increase over three years.

“Options have been presented to council allowing for Victoria Cricket Club to raise their booking charge over a three year period at which stage they will be paying a comparable amount for facility hire as other sports do.

The spokesperson added: “Council officers are happy to meet with Victoria Cricket Club and a date has been set to discuss the implications of any increased costs. Officers believe that costs are proportionate to what other clubs pay and would envisage that this should not require Victoria Cricket Club to relocate.”