19 April 2024

Family in plea over plan to rename playing fields

By Rebecca Hannant

The family of a “well-respected” grassroots football coach have launched an appeal over plans to rename the Hull Road playing fields after the King ahead of the Coronation.

Withernsea Town Council has unveiled plans to celebrate the crowning of the new monarch with a series of events around the town – and it has also announced that it will rename the Hull Road playing fields – home to Withernsea AFC – to the King Charles III playing fields.

The plans have sparked concern among the family of Frank Windas, who was a stalwart of the club for 55 years before his death in 2019.

His son Mark Windas, who is also manager of Withernsea AFC Under-15s, said: “My dad died in April 2019. After the first memorial match in 2020, former mayor Patrick Spicer said that he wanted to go to the council and propose that we rename the playing field after Frank Windas for his service to the community and to the club.

“He was part of the club for 55 years. He got a special recognition award from the East Riding FA for 50 years’ service to Withernsea. I thought it was a lovely gesture – everyone thought that it was a good idea [to rename the fields after him].

“We had a Zoom meeting with the council, and they just downright said no. The council told us that we can’t set a precedent and name anything after anybody as it would open the floodgates for everyone. That was the end of it. We were disappointed and we questioned that other properties and venues were named after people.

“We weren’t doing this on a whim – he did 55 years community service. A lot of people knew him. He coached a lot of people as a child or an adult. Everything about grassroots football is my dad. He included everybody and anybody, he didn’t want anyone to miss out on the opportunity to play a game of football.

“He started at 14 – up to the day he died, he was involved in the club. He was a player, on the committee, he did a lot of maintenance work for free. His whole life revolved around the club. He did so much behind the scenes. I think that people like my dad should be rewarded in the community. In my opinion that field is Frank Windas.”

Carron Windas Durkin, daughter of Frank, added: “My dad has done so much for the community, and he was well loved. Even at his funeral there were 272 people there. He was so well thought of, and so well liked. He gave everybody a chance. He never had a bad word to say about people, he always saw the good in them. Even those who were often in trouble with the police or had been in prison, he still gave them a game of football or paid their subs.”

The Windas family criticised Withernsea Town Council for not contacting the football club itself about its plans, and have asked the authority to reconsider its decision, but they say they have not received a response, forcing them to consider submitting a request to debate the issue at a future council meeting.

Carron added: “The councillors may not have been to the field. Many of them moved to Withernsea after 2017. They may not know where the field is. They don’t know my dad; they don’t know the history; they haven’t done their homework. We feel that they are just not bothered.”

In a bid to overturn the decision, Carron has launch a petition in person and on social media. However, Carron said that while she believes that she will get the signatures needed, it may not provide a realistic picture of all those affected by the name change as players and their families from the surrounding villages will not be able to have their say over Withernsea matters.

She said: “It doesn’t just stop at Withernsea – we have people that play in the villages. But we can’t have their signature. It just must be Withernsea people.”

A parent of a Withernsea AFC player who lives in Patrington said: “My son has played for Withernsea for around 10 years. It would be fitting for the field to be named after Frank.

“The name change proposed by Withernsea Town Council doesn’t just affect Withernsea people, as there are so many people who use the facilities. It would be nice to have an input.”

A statement from Withernsea Town Council said: “The town council resolved not to rename the Hull Road playing fields, or any other town asset, after any local individual due to there being many people over the years who have dedicated their time to local good causes.

“None of our property is named after an individual. It’s not something that the council does.

“The council felt that to do so could cause offence to other families who feel their loved ones also deserve such a gesture. It’s a very emotive subject. It does set a precedent which could be difficult to manage in the long term. That is not to say that the efforts shown by Frank Windas for Withernsea AFC aren’t recognised – they are.

“What we did suggest was for the football club to rename their pavilion, as it is theirs, the town does not own it. We had hoped that they would do that instead. No offence was intended to Frank’s family. There’s no doubt he did great things for football in Withernsea. It is true that some streets in Withernsea may be named after other people, but we do not own them, nor did we name them.

“All of our councillors have visited the playing fields – they all know where they are.

“The town council has recently resolved to support the suggestion by a member of Withernsea AFC to rename the playing fields to commemorate King Charles III’s Coronation. We felt this was justified to mark the historic occasion of the changing of our sovereign.

“We didn’t feel that consultation with Withernsea AFC was needed as we own the playing fields and they are an asset for the whole town – even though the pitches are leased, they are still used by the wider public. Many playing fields are King George V playing fields; ours is not one of those.

“We understand that there is to be a petition presented to the council in due course. We have forwarded our petitions policy to the family to ensure a fair and clear petition is presented.”

To sign the petition, visit bit.ly/3LGI4Zz.