HUNDREDS of young footballers are being forced to travel outside the borough for games, while others go for weeks without playing – as angry team bosses blame West Lancashire council for failing to maintain its pitches.
Elliot Cosgrove, chairman of Burscough JFC, says the standard of pitches at Abbey Lane and Victoria Park playing fields is so bad many teams have been unable to play a game since the season kicked off earlier this month.
And he believes the situation could lead to youngsters becoming disillusioned and turning their back on sport – despite the Olympic legacy aims of increasing interest in sport in young people.
The pitches had been out of use since February, and Mr Cosgrove said he had been assured by the council they would be maintained over the close season to be ready for September. But he says the Abbey Lane pitches were waterlogged when teams turned up earlier this month – while, at Victoria Park, “bunker-like” pot holes in the goalmouths rendered pitches unusable.
It has meant teams having to play away from home – as far afield as Bolton and Sefton – with others having no other choice but to postpone fixtures.
He has now asked managers of his 26 teams to write to the council with their concerns, in an attempt to get the issues resolved.
He said: “I raised this issue a few weeks ago. We have been asking for maintenance for years. It’s such a stressful time, we don’t have facilities and they’re not opening anything up to us.
“I’ve sent emails but so far it’s been a waste of time. Lots of parents are complaining and I feel like my voice has gone unheard so I’ve told managers they need to email their concerns, too. I’ve been trying to keep a working relationship with the council but enough is enough – it all boils down to a lack of investment and maintenance. If kids go weeks on end without games, there’s a real danger they will walk away. In the Olympic year, with the ideals of a legacy for kids, it’s ridiculous.”
A council spokesman said: “The council carried out some additional surface draining at Abbey Lane. Unfortunately, due to the wet weather over the summer months, this work was delayed. Hopefully, when the opportunity arises, we will be able to complete this work. Current weather conditions have not helped and have exacerbated the situation regarding usage.Work on pitches at Victoria Park is carried out on a rolling programme but is dictated by ground conditions.”