Calls for Peterborough footballers to unite against poor quality pitches “killing grassroots football”

Calls have been made for footballers and clubs in Peterborough to unite to fight to improve the poor standard of pitches, which is “killing grassroots football” in the city.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 20th September 2021, 10:43 am
An example of one of the pitches prepared for use in the Peterborough leagues.

The rallying call has been made by local football chairman and stalwart Stuart Cave in the form of an online petition. Stuart also runs several local Facebook groups to help local people find a team to play for, friendly fixtures and referees and has over 15 years experience of playing on and using council-owned pitches.

Recently, however, he has noticed a growing number of teams reporting problems with poor quality pitches and a lack of local facilities available to them in preseason.

Among the concerns raised by the poor state of many pitches is the risk of injury and the fact it may be turning players away from the game. This is why he has called on clubs and players in the city to unite to fight to improve the situation.

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He said: “All of my local Facebook pages are very busy and I’d say I’ve seen 95 percent of clubs discussing the state of pitches and lack of facilities available to them during pre-season.

“With grassroots football returning this week, many teams have returned to find terrible football pitch conditions, including: destroyed goals, disgusting changing room facilities which have not been cleaned since the start of the pandemic, ditches and holes around the pitch, massive areas of dried mud with no grass around goal mouths, unmowed grass and clumps left on the pitches.

“Playing football in these conditions causes injuries and can easily cause players harm, missing work, spending time in A&E and in some cases, injuries needing operations. It also causes matches to be postponed or abandoned due to long grass, no lines or inadequate pitches; meaning fines for clubs for things out of their control.

“The FA and local councils have made it clear that they want to support grassroots football, but why would anyone want to get involved if they have to risk the chance of picking up a very avoidable injury in these conditions?”

The fear amongst many figures in the grassroots game is that these poor conditions are driving individual players away but also clubs as costs appear to be rising, despite the worsening facilities they are being provided with.

In order to find a solution, Stuart has urged clubs to come together.

He added: “The price of PCC pitches rises yearly for a poorer and poorer service. This year, for example, clubs had to wait until two days before the season started for goals and lines to be put in; meaning no home games could be played in preseason at all, no training sessions could be held and there was the worry of will it be ready? It was awful.

“Sometimes, even when the grass is cut, it gets left on top, causing significant problems with injuries and games being called off for long grass. Then they will only do six cuts a year and if you want extra you have to either do it yourself or they will do it at an extra cost.

“The costs of these pitches are around £65 and then once you add on the referee’s fee, the price per game comes to around £95. This is crippling grassroots football and players will choose not to play any longer. We have already seen this with six adult teams dropping out of the league this year due to a lack of players and funds. “I don’t want to be alone though, I want local football as a whole to campaign against the current conditions provided by PCC.

“I understand they have tighter budgets now than many years ago and the staff are actually very nice and their hands are tied but I want them to know that what is happening now is killing grassroots football and turning away the next generation of England players. The lack of pitch maintenance needs addressing.

A Peterborough City Council spokesperson said: “We currently cut all grass areas in the City eight times per year as per what we are budgeted to do, however we have in the past paid for additional cuts to bring this to ten cuts on football pitches to try and help, we have this year seen exceptional grass growth throughout the season.

“The football pitch attendant service was removed as a budget saving some years back and as part of this clubs were advised they would need to clean changing rooms after use and any that requested it were provided with cleaning materials.

“We are happy to work with clubs and if they have concerns, we would be happy to speak further with them to look at a joint solution within the budget we have available for the pitch provision in the city.”