Edinburgh football clubs: 'Our pitches are unplayable'

Frustrated football clubs are repeatedly turning up to find their pitches have been left unplayable on public playing fields across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 10:00 am
The pitch at Spartans. Picture: TSPL

Grass up to their ankles, churned up turf, divots so big players risk injuring themselves and pitches strewn with grass cuttings are among the catalogue of complaints raised by local youth and amateur clubs.

The Evening News has been inundated with pictures and stories of pitches being left a safety hazard for the often young players on a regular basis or simply left without proper pitch markings.

A game between Spartans and Dalkeith U14’s on August 23 was forced to be called off just 20 minutes before kick off at Craigentinny Park after players, parents and the referee arrived to find the pitch contained several large holes, no painted pitch lines and large tufts of grass in the goal mouth.

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The pitch at Spartans. Picture: TSPL

The referee had no choice but to call the game off 20 minutes before the match was due to start. Parents have told the Evening News that the staff had been on site prior to the game but did not notify both teams about the state of the pitch.

Philip Caldwell, 47, whose son plays with Dalkeith U-14s, said: “Around 50 people turned up, players, coaches and parents to find no lines on the pitch, large holes around the park and uncut grass making it clearly unplayable and quite frankly dangerous for young children to play football on. Some parents and children had a disappointing long drive back down to the Borders.”

The damage caused across the Lothians has left some matches postponed and clubs unable to train properly at the start of the season, leaving their players missing out on vital sessions.Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale(LTHV) were forced to cancel their Scottish Cup tie on August 18 and to rearrange the game the following week in Broxburn for fear that the Saughton

Enclosure pitch would not be playable again, leading to further disappointment and costs.

Long grass at Currie Star's training ground. Picture: TSPL

The women’s side was also forced to rearrange their match on August 19 at the same venue.

Ryan Harding, 35, head coach of LTHV, said: “We had our original Scottish Cup game called off. We then rearranged the Scottish to a venue in Broxburn as we were unsure whether the pitch would be playable.

“The pitch ended up being playable for that Saturday. But I can guarantee that the original tie was called off due to the damage caused by the maintenance teams. The only area that had puddles was the area that was directly damaged.”

The apparent fall in maintenance standards follows on from the council’s decision to increase maintenance costs - a creeping fashion over several years; putting great strain on many club’s ability to operate. The rise in costs has also left service users questioning what they get for their money and wondering whether the cost of hiring is worth the service they are receiving.

Large clumps of grass have been left on playing surfaces by the maintenance teams across the city. With club organisers asking why this has not been picked up by the three grass collecting machines that the council operates.

Edinburgh City Council said it was working hard to try to improve the state of within its patch The council’s greenspace team operates a routine which involves cutting the grass, removing the mowing unit, fitting a collecting unit to collect the grass, which takes twice as long as normal mowing.

The team could draft in an extra tractor but that could double the cost of pitch maintenance.

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “The Greenspace team have worked very hard over the last few seasons with many of the local clubs to successfully improve the quality of pitches and any complaints received will be dealt with directly.

“We work with Edinburgh Leisure to maintain and provide access to approximately 160 pitches in the city. As part of our standard practice pitches are cut weekly. Unfortunately last month, our scheduled maintenance had unseasonal weather to contend with. The warm and wet weather has led to increased growth of grass but also made it more difficult to maintain. If left too long the pitch would be deemed unplayable so where it was felt to be appropriate to cut the grass and allow local clubs to honour their fixtures our teams carried out the job.”