PLAYERS in last Saturday's soccer grand finals at the BCU International Stadium were left scratching their heads, after walking through the front gates to play in the biggest event of the year and being asked to pay.

Even the referees were asked to put their hands in their pockets and pay an entry fee.

Most people were left dumbfounded at the idea of players paying to compete in their own grand final.

Captain of women's first division winners, Corindi Red-Rock Breakers, Alexis Touzel, said that she was surprised that the players were asked to pay. "I did't go there expecting to pay - all the girls were pretty shocked," she said.

"You would think that with the small percentage of players to spectators at the event we wouldn't have had to." Rachel McVicar, captain of Coffs United Lionesses, had a similar view.

"We don't have a choice where the finals are played. We pay at the start of the year to play, then every week for refereeing fees. It seems a bit rough that we have to pay to play in the grand final, too," she said.

Mother of two players and manager of the Corindi-Red Rock Breakers, Leanne Bartlett, also said that she thought it was a bizarre scene.

"It just doesn't seem quite ethical to make the players pay to get in to play their grand final. I couldn't believe it."

Coffs United Lion's Men's Premier League captain Ben Mackay wasn't surprised, explaining that he'd had to pay for the past few years.

"It was two dollars last year, five dollars this year. I don't really think it's right, I mean, we're the entertainment aren't we?" he said.

"We tried to charge a fee for one of our home games after we had to hire security, but the association wouldn't let us. But then they charge us to get into the grand final."

Administration manager for North Coast Football, Bob Harris, said that the quality of the playing field and high security costs were the reason that players had to fork out to play in their finals.

"As part of our agreement of staging the finals at the stadium, we had to hire security. We have an obligation to protect our well-behaved spectators, and that came with a fee," he said.

"It is such a great venue, but the cost meant that we needed to charge an entry fee to everyone - players, referees, board members and spectators.

"That was the policy set by the board of directors. "We thought that it would be fair for everyone to pay, regardless of why they were there.

"The stadium is such a magnificent venue, and it's not free. From my understanding, most players aren't bothered about paying to have the privilege of playing on such a magnificent field."

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