Young offenders help fix community pitch

Murrayburn is green and inviting after its facelift. Picture:  PHIL WILKINSON
Murrayburn is green and inviting after its facelift. Picture: PHIL WILKINSON
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ONLY a year ago, it was a grotty drug den strewn with empty booze bottles.

Now – after £21,000 of investment and hundreds of hours of work from young offenders – the Murrayburn kick-pitch is a football ground of which the whole community can be proud.

The former ash pitch which'became a venue for drink and drug abuse. Picture: contributed

The former ash pitch which'became a venue for drink and drug abuse. Picture: contributed

Parents said they were “chuffed to bits” with the pitch’s transformation and that their neighbourhood had turned a corner.

Local dad Ronnie Mack, 36, said: “It was an absolute shambles before. Now, you have a whole range of age groups using it – morning until night.”

The security worker and father of one said the pitch was previously so overgrown and dirty it was avoided rather than played on by young footballers.

He added that it had also become a no-go area for residents and their children because crowds of youths were regularly gathering there to drink alcohol and take drugs.

Now, with brand new astroturf and fencing, the pitch was a genuine “meeting point” for the community, he said.

“Before, you would pass by and see crowds of kids looking dodgy – drinking, smoking their dope in the bushes and leaving the remains all around.

“It was attracting all the wrong folk. But now, with the fences mended and the bushes cut right back, there’s not as much hanging about and it’s cut the drinking and drug-
taking right out.”

And he paid tribute to the work of young offenders who helped clear litter, remove graffiti and repaint the perimeter walls over a period of three months.

“They did a really good job,” he said. “They’ve helped provide a huge boost to the whole community here.”

Offenders who helped with the redevelopment also told of the positive impact taking part would have on their lives.

Sean, 28, who did not want to give his full name, spent four days a week at the pitch and said: “It’s getting experience and working with different kinds of lads – being able to get on with them.

“And I would say helping has left me feeling a wee bit closer to the people in the area.”

The completion of improvement works was also hailed by local councillors.

Councillor Denis Dixon, SNP member for Sighthill and Gorgie, said: “Now that we’ve done this work to get the pitch done up, the kids have something they didn’t have before – a genuinely nice and inviting sports facility.

“Murrayburn is a big district and it would be fair to say it needs some TLC. I’ll be doing everything possible to make sure we put whatever we can into the area.”

Kicking out against crime

FOOTBALL is helping improve crime-afflicted areas across the Capital.

In West Pilton, a portable football pitch has already cut crime and anti-social behaviour. Spartans Community Football Academy has set up a pitch at West Pilton Neighbourhood Centre every Tuesday night since last April.

Programme manager Kenny Cameron said: “The young guys all felt that even though there’s laddies there they don’t particularly hang around with at normal times, they felt safe.”