Battle over Edinburgh’s ‘barely playable’ football pitches

Ryan, eight , Aiden, six, and dad Robbie Howie at the overgrown pitch at St Cutherbert's Primary. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Ryan, eight , Aiden, six, and dad Robbie Howie at the overgrown pitch at St Cutherbert's Primary. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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AGEING and “outdated” grass cutting equipment is leaving some council football pitches in the Capital “looking like a shinty field,” according to the coaches of some young players.

Parents have complained about the length of grass on some council-maintained football fields – which they say are not being cut short enough because the machinery used by local park services “spends more time in the repair shop than outside”.

Pitches at Redhall and Pilrig Park were singled out by youth football coaches as among the worst offenders, while facilities at St Cuthbert’s Primary School were also criticised.

Parents have now taken to social media to share their images of “overgrown” fields alongside the hashtag #PerfectPitch.

Robbie Howie, 35, who coaches sons Ryan, eight, and Aidan, six, as part of the St Cuthbert’s Primary football team branded the standard of pitches a “disgrace,” adding: “Our kids deserve much better than the surfaces they are currently forced to play on, especially when the grass is allowed to grow to that length.”

“This has been a long-running battle to get our facilities up to standard and I appreciate the guys cutting the grass are doing their best with what they have, but unfortunately their equipment is just not good enough.

“At times, the St Cuthbert’s pitch is barely playable. We go to places like Meggetland for away matches where the pitches are pristine and the difference is enormous.

“If we keep being given such mediocre facilities for our kids to play on, it is unlikely many others will want to keep playing and being active.”

The cash-strapped authority recently admitted the capital funding for park maintenance had been dissolved due to ongoing budget restraints.

Scottish Greens sport spokesperson, councillor Alex Staniforth, said: “Whatever the sport, teams need decent facilities to play on. I’ve been getting stories of pitches where the grass is just too long to play. Council staff tell me that the equipment is increasingly old and unable to give the pitches a proper cut. Equipment which spends too much time in repair is no good either.”

“For a few thousand pounds it would be possible to get it replaced and when the grass starts growing again next spring, have pitches where the ball can run freely.

“It may not make everyone into a superstar but it will certainly encourage more people to take up and enjoy sport.”

A council spokesperson confirmed the authority was considering plans to replace some existing machinery, adding:“We endeavour to cut grass on pitches to a height in line with our landscape quality standards. However, given other service commitments, available resources and prevailing weather conditions it is not always possible to attain this for every pitch all year round.”