Action group formed to deal with the state of Blackburn's council football pitches (From This Is Lancashire)
Action group formed to deal with the state of Blackburn's council football pitches
AMATEUR football organisers have said ‘enough is enough’ after council pitches were deemed unplayable on the opening day of the new season.
Representatives from three leagues that use the Blackburn pitches have come together to form The Blackburn and District Combined Football Alliance, with a joint aim of securing cash to improve the standard of playing surfaces in the long-term.
The group, which represents more than 5,000 players and 1,300 officials and referees, said pitches at Pleasington and Pleckgate in the town had not been properly maintained for more than 20 years.
And Bill Maynard, fixtures secretary for the Blackburn Sunday Football League, said the situation had gone on for too long.
He said: “We had this situation 12 months ago when we went to a meeting with the council who said there wasn’t the money to maintain the pitches properly.
“They said over the next 12 months it would be sorted out.
“We have been working with the council and the Lancashire FA to get grants but nothing has come through.”
Mr Maynard, who was speaking on behalf of all the leagues involved in the Alliance, said there were 11 pitches at Pleasington and a further two at Pleckgate High School, but they routinely lost at least three pitches every weekend.
He said: “I was told three pitches were not fit to play on for the opening weekend of the season as they were dangerous.
“Then I had another called off by a referee who said it wasn’t playable.
“On one of them they had gone over a big hole with the line marker as if it wasn’t there.
“We were told pitches at Pleckgate were playable and my phone never stopped ringing because the grass was so long you could just about see the ball over the top of it.”
Mr Maynard said it was not right that people should have to play on pitches that were in such a state.
He said: “All these people are involved in a sport they love.
“They pay, on average, £5 per match, and over the course of a season that figure is likely to be over £100.
“And all to play football on a pitch that could potentially cause them an injury.”
Mr Maynard said the leagues were not getting value for money for playing on the pitches.
He said: “We pay £11,000 a year, and other leagues will vary based on the number of matches they play.
“And to fit games in we have been taking them to Accrington, so Blackburn Sunday League games are being played outside of Blackburn.”
Blackburn with Darwen Council blamed the state of the pitches on an increase in popularity.
Coun Damian Talbot, executive member for sport, said: “We recognise the importance of our local football teams and we are meeting with the alliance to discuss their concerns.
“However, the borough’s pitches have faced a continuous growth in popularity over recent years, which has inevitably placed more pressure on them.
“In order to meet this demand the council is currently putting together a new pitch strategy and we will continue to do all we can to support community sport.”
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