A top city football team’s Scottish Cup dreams have been left in tatters after bungling council workers ruined their pitch just two days before their shot at glory.
East of Scotland Football League side Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale volunteers spent the summer carefully tending to the Saughton Enclosure turf ahead of their round one Scottish Cup tie.
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But the first preliminary round tie against Wigtown and Bladnoch FC had to be scrapped after heavy grass-cutting equipment left the Edinburgh side’s pitch deeply rutted.
The mowing operation was carried out after torrential downpours and the sodden surface gave way under the weight of the equipment. And the deep ruts filled with water following more rainfall, leaving the pitch completely unplayable.
It would have been inspected by the referee ahead of today’s match but this has had to be cancelled.
Lothian Thistle had been tending to the pitch at Saughton Enclosure for weeks and were happy with the way it was tended by council crews during the pre-season weeks but officials were horrified to find it badly damaged just 48 hours ahead of the kick-off.
A club spokesperson said: “When you consider that our Amateur side has to pay £97 for a pitch on a Saturday you certainly expect better services.
“At times it feels like grass roots football in this city is treated with disdain by Edinburgh Leisure and the council. With the costs going up each year, you expect the services not to get worse.”
The club took to social media to vent their fury at the state of the pitch – and it would have cost £97 to hire an alternative.
The semi-pro side is entitled to a playable pitch that is suitably maintained as well as clean, functioning changing rooms. Edinburgh Leisure – the council’s arms-length organisation – run the facilities at the site, whereas the local authority is responsible for its maintenance.
Head coach Ryan Harding, said: “We came in over the summer, and credit to the guys from the council as they put a lot of work into the growth at the end of the season.
“However, since then we’ve also done a lot of personal work. For instance, the assistant coach has gone down three or four times a week and watered it, seeded it and most recently lined and cut it.
“Saturday was our first home game and the pitch was looking the best it’s been in years and after one game for the pitch to look in its current state is hard to take considering the work put into it. I’m not slagging off the guys at the council but I just wish there was a bit more communication because the decision to cut it after all the recent heavy rain just seems strange.”
Mr Harding continued: “I think the hard part is the pricing seems to be going up all over Edinburgh but the standards are dropping with maintenance and general care, and cut grass is left in a heap for teams to clear away.”
A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “We have been made aware of the complaint and we’re looking into it.”