Nearly 2,000 children can keep getting their kicks after council plans to cut support for junior football were dropped.

Merton's Little Leagues - charities which run low-cost junior football programmes for about 1,800 children in five parts of the borough - faced paying at least £5,000 a year to keep using parks run by Merton Council.

The leagues are currently allowed to play on them free of charge.

Julian Stevens, secretary of Wimbledon Little League, said: "We are over the moon."

The leagues - in Wimbledon, Morden, Mitcham, Raynes Park and Colliers Wood - are free for less well off children, and cost just £20 a year for others. Earlier this month Mr Stevens said three of the five leagues could be killed off if the council carried out the plan outlined in its budget proposals.

Mr Stevens said the decision not to charge the leagues, confirmed by council leader Stephen Alambritis today, had been made after an "onslaught" of protests from families.

In a letter to those involved with the charities coun Alambritis - a former little league player himself - said: "I can confirm that we have no intention of charging the little leagues in Merton.

"We are proud of being one of the few boroughs in the country that offers free pitches to Little Leagues and we will continue to support you and want you to go from strength to strength."