Council’s lease pitch plea to sports clubs

Wet, muddy football pitches on the Wigan Council owned football pitches off Scot Lane
Wet, muddy football pitches on the Wigan Council owned football pitches off Scot Lane
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WIGAN Council is still looking for sports teams to lease their sports fields despite pressure from the Football Association to improve the state of playing surfaces.

Council chiefs say they have managed to lease four sites since they made them available to sports teams in February 2013.

However, the FA say the majority of council pitches are not maintained to a good enough level making them unplayable for weeks on end.

Pitches are not only waterlogged after heavy rain but are also suffering from overuse in many cases, the FA says.

They also say there needs to be a shift towards synthetic pitches.

Pete Ackerley, the FA’s senior national game development manager, said: “There has to be a move to sustainable artificial pitches. The average grass pitch can hold two to three games a week – artificial pitches can host up to 60 teams training and matches.”

The Local Government Association suggested the FA could pay for pitches.

Council bosses say more pitches need to be leased to clubs to help them with vast cuts to public spending meaning they have to save more than £40m over the next three years.

Wigan Council assistant director of leisure, cultural and property, Penny McGinty, said: “Since February 2013, Wigan Council has received expressions of interest from six sports clubs and associations over the lease of four sites, which contain 16 pitches. One site has been transferred to a club, while the remaining three will be transferred in the near future.

“These four sites will add to the eight sites which were already being managed by sports clubs prior to February 2013. This leaves 86 pitches over 35 sites that are still owned by Wigan Council.

“Allowing sporting clubs to lease rugby and football pitches is helping to reduce the financial burden on the council and free us to focus funding areas in need of improvement, as well as giving them the opportunity to develop and run the facilities themselves. We have found it has strengthened the strong local sporting infrastructure which already exists, and is helping clubs engage within the community and get people to become more active.”

Many clubs in the borough have experienced fixture congestion due to the state of pitches recently.

A spokesman for Wigan Council and WLCT said: “We are currently experiencing one of the wettest winters on record and the appalling bad weather has made many pitches unplayable recently.”