A level playing field?

Daily Echo: Green Park Green Park

THEY are the pitches where thousands of players young and old descend every weekend to emulate their idols at St Mary’s.

It is on these green fields that their own tales of glory are enacted – where a keeper can make that dramatic one-handed save, or a striker can hit home that winning volley.

From Millbrook Recreation Ground to Mayfield Park, in Weston, more than 5,000 players use these city council pitches, from the fresh-faced Tyro League youngsters to the seen-it-all veterans.

But the state of some of these council pitches is making it increasingly hard for even the most skilled players to showcase their talents.

Some pitches are covered with holes, others have uneven surfaces, and some are even covered in unsightly dog mess, which teams have to pick up before games get under way.

Even a changing room toilet was recently littered with smashed bottles.

An inspection of Southampton City Council’s budget reveals that less is being spent on the pitches.

In the last four years expenditure on maintaining outdoor spaces, including football pitches, has been reduced by £135,000, from £495,000 to £360,000.

The council insists this cut has not affected the way pitches are maintained or how many ground staff there are.

But that is not the view of people in grass roots football.

Chris Gerrard, 25, who manages Bannister Park Football Team said: “I don’t mind paying the fee for the pitches, but what we want is to play on a half-decent football pitch. All the council pitches are awful, they’re covered in pot-holes and dog mess and the grass is not properly maintained.

“At the sports centre there was one pitch which had no grass whatsoever in the penalty area, and it was covered in stones.”

Another manager who is angry about the state of council pitches is Tony Hewes, 49, from St Denys, who runs AFC Station and Portswood United. He said: “Mayfield Park is one of the worst grounds I have ever seen, and for all of the money the council charges for the pitches they are terrible.”

Daily Echo: Tony Hewes of AFC Station and Portswood Utd.

At one game this season at Mayfield Park, Mr Hewes said there was a huge crater in the middle of the pitch which council ground staff filled with dirt.

This is nothing unusual according to Mr Hewes, who said: “The pitches have gone downhill in the last five years, that’s why my AFC Station side don’t play our home games on council pitches.”

The council charges £55 to use one of its pitches.

But fields which are privately owned by schools cost significantly less to use and, according to Mr Hewes, are better maintained.

He added: “My worry is that now t e a m s realise that non-council pitches are better and sometimes cheaper , they will now get overused and the prices will increase.”

It is not just the pitches that are a problem.

Some changing room facilities are being vandalised and the president of Southampton Tyro League football, Brian Butler, 78, labelled an incident at Green Park as ‘the worst in my 54 years in football”.

Mr Butler and the secretary of Saturday League football, Rod Sutherland, found broken glass bottles strewn across the floor of the ground’s toilets. Mr Butler said: “l could not believe the state of the toilets.

"They were 3in or 4in full of broken glass. What if a kid went in those toilets?

"There was no one around to talk to about it, or to complain to.”

Daily Echo: Smashed bottles found in the toilets at Green Park.

Mr Butler added he had to move a Tyro League football match between Brendan 97 and Hamble United away from Lordshill Recreation ground because the pitch was full with holes. He said: “If the kids played on that, they would be at risk of breaking their legs.”

It is not just footballers who say that council pitches are poorly maintained. Cricket players have also lodged complaints.

One cricket captain, who did not want to be named, said: “The council pitches have a reputation for being poor. With cricket it is crucial there is a reasonable playing surface. We need to be able to tell what the ball is going to do, but on council pitches it is completely erratic and quite dangerous.”

Committee member for the Southampton Evening Cricket league, Glen Delacour, also said that in his 20 years playing cricket the pitches have got worse.

“They have become less playable. One of the most worrying things is the lack of ground staff," he said.

“Fortunately this season there was lots of rain, so the bounce was less erratic than in previous years.”

Southampton City Council has defended the ground maintenance cuts.

Leisure boss Councillor Warwick Payne said that, despite the maintenance budget being reduced, there are no plans to sell any pitches in the near future.

“The situation we are facing is the council has less money to spend than before,” he said.

“Sadly we do not have much money to put into maintaining pitches, unless it is a way which does not cost the taxpayer more money.

“We want to keep the standard of the service high, so that teams have pitches which they can play on.”

Comments (10)

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1:05pm Sun 14 Oct 12

cantthinkofone says...

Would be a useful thing to get people with community service sentences onto, if they're not already.
Would be a useful thing to get people with community service sentences onto, if they're not already. cantthinkofone
  • Score: 0

1:17pm Sun 14 Oct 12

George4th says...

If not already done so, I would outsource the maintenance of these pitches to the Private sector.
If not already done so, I would outsource the maintenance of these pitches to the Private sector. George4th
  • Score: 0

1:52pm Sun 14 Oct 12

southy says...

cantthinkofone wrote:
Would be a useful thing to get people with community service sentences onto, if they're not already.
If you can do that then you can afford to employ and pay for people, like old park keep to look after parks again, like they use to back before the Tory Government of the 80's force councils to make cut backs in services.
[quote][p][bold]cantthinkofone[/bold] wrote: Would be a useful thing to get people with community service sentences onto, if they're not already.[/p][/quote]If you can do that then you can afford to employ and pay for people, like old park keep to look after parks again, like they use to back before the Tory Government of the 80's force councils to make cut backs in services. southy
  • Score: 0

2:56pm Sun 14 Oct 12

Block41row0sfc says...

A bloody good read. I thought the goverment and I beleive the Olympic legacy said more money would be pumped into grass roots sports I might be confusing it with something else. Reconditioning the playing surfaces is a must.
A bloody good read. I thought the goverment and I beleive the Olympic legacy said more money would be pumped into grass roots sports I might be confusing it with something else. Reconditioning the playing surfaces is a must. Block41row0sfc
  • Score: 0

5:31pm Sun 14 Oct 12

loosehead says...

The problem is the same with Rugby pitches.
What do you do? dog mess we know before training sessions or games we have to check the pitches for dog mess we also look for hidden objects like razor blades ( put there on purpose).
we have people who are capable of fixing damaged pitches.
I know Queens JKeep wanted to put in drainage on a temporary pitch but it wasn't suppose to be a permanent fixture.
Also we have posts pulled down & idiots on motorbikes especially in the wet so digging up all sports pitches.
we also get burned out cars & there has been cctv installed in both sub ways but with no cameras?
you could only stop this abuse by banning all dog owners good & bad fencing it off & having round the clock security.
Our pitches are now used by Oasis do they check for dog muck do the dog owners care?
The problem is the same with Rugby pitches. What do you do? dog mess we know before training sessions or games we have to check the pitches for dog mess we also look for hidden objects like razor blades ( put there on purpose). we have people who are capable of fixing damaged pitches. I know Queens JKeep wanted to put in drainage on a temporary pitch but it wasn't suppose to be a permanent fixture. Also we have posts pulled down & idiots on motorbikes especially in the wet so digging up all sports pitches. we also get burned out cars & there has been cctv installed in both sub ways but with no cameras? you could only stop this abuse by banning all dog owners good & bad fencing it off & having round the clock security. Our pitches are now used by Oasis do they check for dog muck do the dog owners care? loosehead
  • Score: 0

6:14pm Sun 14 Oct 12

Linesman says...

The Council's financial 'cake' is only so big. If one area gets a larger slice, then another gets a smaller one.

Royston's Folly at the Civic Centre has had a very large slice, which means less for others such as maintenance of pitches and parks.
The Council's financial 'cake' is only so big. If one area gets a larger slice, then another gets a smaller one. Royston's Folly at the Civic Centre has had a very large slice, which means less for others such as maintenance of pitches and parks. Linesman
  • Score: 0

6:26pm Sun 14 Oct 12

gummybear says...

these pitches changing rooms are a joke we have to pay £50 to £60 to play on and use the changing rooms the pitches are totally very poor due to dog mess pot holes but why is this all checked before we play it should be down to groundsman to check and not us so hope this gets sorted out
these pitches changing rooms are a joke we have to pay £50 to £60 to play on and use the changing rooms the pitches are totally very poor due to dog mess pot holes but why is this all checked before we play it should be down to groundsman to check and not us so hope this gets sorted out gummybear
  • Score: 0

6:42pm Sun 14 Oct 12

sotonman2012 says...

I have played on many of these pitches & they are all terrible,I've also been injured due to playing on these pitches its totally unsafe
I have played on many of these pitches & they are all terrible,I've also been injured due to playing on these pitches its totally unsafe sotonman2012
  • Score: 0

8:34pm Sun 14 Oct 12

dadofmy3sons says...

At Mayfield park when the fair is allowed to use a part of the park, they drive ALL of their vehicles across the pitch nearest to the grass slope. When they leave they do it again and the grass is ruined and rutted and impossible to walk on, let alone play football.
The ref at a game several years ago tried to make my team play on it and I refused to allow it and rang our league administration who agreed when I described it. I took photos and sent them to the league and the council . The council still thought we should pay for the pitch even though we refused to use it!
This still happens every year even though several complaints were made and and promises were made that it wouldn't be allowed to happen again.
The council need the money from the fair to keep the ground open they claim.
At Mayfield park when the fair is allowed to use a part of the park, they drive ALL of their vehicles across the pitch nearest to the grass slope. When they leave they do it again and the grass is ruined and rutted and impossible to walk on, let alone play football. The ref at a game several years ago tried to make my team play on it and I refused to allow it and rang our league administration who agreed when I described it. I took photos and sent them to the league and the council . The council still thought we should pay for the pitch even though we refused to use it! This still happens every year even though several complaints were made and and promises were made that it wouldn't be allowed to happen again. The council need the money from the fair to keep the ground open they claim. dadofmy3sons
  • Score: 0

9:52pm Sun 14 Oct 12

loosehead says...

gummybear wrote:
these pitches changing rooms are a joke we have to pay £50 to £60 to play on and use the changing rooms the pitches are totally very poor due to dog mess pot holes but why is this all checked before we play it should be down to groundsman to check and not us so hope this gets sorted out
So why does my Rugby club have to pay £75 to play on the council pitches if Footballs only paying £60?
Why don't some of you clubs see if you can get a lease on the Civil Service ground in Shirley.then you get an enclosed area with the potential to build a clubhouse & you can keep up the condition of the site?
[quote][p][bold]gummybear[/bold] wrote: these pitches changing rooms are a joke we have to pay £50 to £60 to play on and use the changing rooms the pitches are totally very poor due to dog mess pot holes but why is this all checked before we play it should be down to groundsman to check and not us so hope this gets sorted out[/p][/quote]So why does my Rugby club have to pay £75 to play on the council pitches if Footballs only paying £60? Why don't some of you clubs see if you can get a lease on the Civil Service ground in Shirley.then you get an enclosed area with the potential to build a clubhouse & you can keep up the condition of the site? loosehead
  • Score: 0

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