Recreation Teams Must Have 60 Percent Local Players

After lengthy deliberation, the Town Council voted 5-0 to amend a town ordinance relating to the percentage of players on recreation teams who must be from Londonderry. Each team must have 60 percent Londonderry players.

A public hearing on the issue was dominated by parents and coaches from local soccer associations, who said requiring each team in an organization to maintain 60 percent Londonderry players rather than an average of 60 percent of players from Londonderry across the organization would drive competitive Londonderry athletes out-of-town.

“We’re trying to make changes in Londonderry United to keep kids in Londonderry. We want kids staying in town and playing together because that’s what’s best for our high school teams,” said Todd Ellis, Londonderry High School boys varsity soccer coach and Londonderry United boys soccer coach.

Ellis said competitive players in Londonderry who are playing on teams with higher percentages of athletes from other communities would play in another town if those teams dissolved as a result of the ordinance.

If the teams were forced to bring up less competitive Londonderry players to maintain the 60 percent requirement, the more competitive players from Londonderry would leave to play on teams outside the Town, according to Ellis.

“Let’s keep kids playing in Londonderry so they can play to their full potential,” he said.

With a 4-1 vote, the Recreation Commission approved at their Sept. 8 meeting amending the ordinance to decrease the minimum percentage of Londonderry residents required to participate in a recreation sanctioned organization from 80 percent to 60 percent; and to eliminate from the resolutions a sentence stating participants in the Londonderry United Youth Travel Soccer program are to be over the age of 8.

The Council will consider the amendment relating to the age at which players may participate in Londonderry United Youth Travel Soccer at a subsequent meeting.

Councilor Joe Green, who serves as liaison to the Recreation Commission, said the proposal to amend the ordinance to require the 60 percent Londonderry athletes per team arose after rumors swirled that Londonderry-sanctioned organizations were selling field time to groups from other communities.

Additionally, Green said there have been teams in the town that are comprised almost completely of players from outside communities.

“Teams from outside communities didn’t treat Londonderry property as the Londonderry kids did,” Green said. “Let’s understand, we represent the taxpayers and they fund the fields. It doesn’t make any sense to me why we would not make that a priority.”

Londonderry United Soccer Club President Dave Kelly said he has never seen any organizations in Londonderry charge outside teams to play on fields in town, but that occasionally field time is offered to teams if needed, just as other communities host Londonderry-sanctioned teams.

“Londonderry kids play on fields in many other towns, and even other states. If we can’t also be a host, there’s something wrong with that equation,” Kelly said.

Like the youth soccer leagues, adult leagues, such as the women’s and men’s softball leagues, said it would likely be impossible to create teams without players from neighboring communities.

Green said he would support adding to the ordinance an exception for adult teams that would dissolve without players from outside Londonderry and that he would not be opposed to grandfathering in youth teams that already exist and would dissolve with the new requirement that 60 percent of players on each team be from Londonderry.

Previously, the resolution required each team to maintain an 80 percent average of Londonderry players. With the revision approved by the Town Council, each team in town-sanctioned organizations will be required to maintain a 60 percent average of Londonderry players, with exceptions to be granted at the Recreation Commission’s discretion to teams that seek relief.

Council Chairman Tom Dolan said ultimately the Recreation Commission is under the authority of the Town Council and has a liaison to the commission.

“If we see the commission going down a road we aren’t comfortable with, we will revisit that,” he said. “This is not something that is set in stone forever, it’s a policy and guideline.”

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