The Fairfax County Athletic Council yesterday was faced with the same problem as the National Football League: a court restricted its authority to decide which teams can play where.
A Fairfax Circuit Court judge, taking a page from a recent federal court ruling which held that the NFL cannot tell the Oakland Raiders team where to play, temporarily blocked the advisory county board from denying a new soccer league's access to county sports fields.
Judge Joanna Fitzpatrick directed that the Burke Soccer Club be allowed to play on two fields and questioned the athletic council's authority to regulate youth sports in the county as it has done for the past seven years.
"Everybody's got their turf," W. Thomas Parrott, attorney for the Burke club, told Fitzpatrick.. "That's what this case is all about -- protecting their turf."
He charged that the council has no legal authortity to block various groups from using county facilities.
He said his group had registered 852 players for the fall season and was one of five soccer leagues competing for the playing fields in the Burke area.
Assistant County Attorney Edward E. Rose III argued the council based its decision on "the need for a good comprehensive sports program" and added: "There just is no more space [for more teams] ."
Fitzpatrick, however, said that the council had exceeded its advisory authority and ordered a full hearing within the next 30 days into the extent of its decision-making authority.
The 18-member council was created by the Board of Supervisors in 1975 to handle disputes over playing fields, discrimination complaints and other issues.
County recreation officials said 25,000 children and adults have registered with the existing 32 soccer clubs in Fairfax for the coming year, making soccer as the number one participatory sport in the county.
As a result of a 30-day injunction issued by Fitzpatrick, Burke Soccer Club teams will begin playing today on two fields that temporarily will be reserved for their use.
The two fields were to be reworked this year and had not yet been allotted to another club, county officials said.