The BBC highlighted a number of issues arising out of the FA's evidence to a parliamentary hearing last Wednesday about the possible sale of Wembley Stadium:
- 150,000 matches were called off last season due to poor facilities
- One in six matches are called off due to poor pitch quality
- 33 of 50 county FAs are without their own 3G pitch
- Cancelled matches account for the equivalent of 5,000,000 playing opportunities lost this year because of poor facilities
These problems were very noticeable last winter and were repeatedly brought up, not least at the time of our Sevenoaks Town event in February. The answer lies in 3G (artificial) pitches, proper maintenance and the right drainage, but all of these things cost money. At our Sevenoaks event, the finances were addressed by STFC Chairman Paul Lansdale - and now it seems funding is moving up on the FA's agenda too, with part of the potential sale price for Wembley being aimed at "investment into community football facilities".
The new 3G pitch we installed last year for STFC is now in daily use, as it was throughout the winter, and regular maintenance should keep it going for 10-15 years before it needs renewing. No cancellations were necessary, which leads to a virtuous circle of improved cashflow, better players and better football for all.
We are hoping to repeat the Sevenoaks event in other locations next winter - perhaps the FA's thinking will have solidified by then?
Here you can see Sevenoaks Town Chairman Paul Lansdale (centre) and Coach Micky Collins (right) studying a sample of hybrid carpet under the careful supervision of Steve Wilcockson. A picture that summarises our first 3G and hybrid evening quite well!
The evening was a great success, thanks to the gracious hosting and lovely facilities of Sevenoaks Town FC, and the interesting and wide-ranging presentations by our speakers. Paul Lansdale gave an engaging outline of how he found £500,000 for the club from local resources; Karen Woolland of WCTD explained what you need to think of when raising funds in general and especially from public bodies; Steve Wilcockson from Surfacing Standards Limited presented the role of a specialist consultant throughout the decision-making and implementation process; and last but not least, Rob de Heer of Sports Pitch Engineering explained the benefits of various types of hybrid sports pitches (i.e., natural grass reinforced in various ways with artificial fibre).
The club catering was good and warming - just what was needed for a very chilly February evening. (The only slight disappointment for some of us older team members was that the ale was off so we had to be content with lager. Oh well, if that's our worst complaint...!) There was a lot of conversations going on in the wamth of the club-house, but eventually we did feel compelled to brave the great outdoors to have a look at the actual 3G pitch.
On site we saw the 1st XI training under the blazing floodlights on a pristine green pitch. Having had a miserably wet weekend, no doubt causing havoc to natural pitches around the South-East, we couldn't have had a better demonstration of the advantages of synthetic carpets. It was cold but enjoyable and cheerful conversations were held all around the pitch.
The evening was rounded off with a penalty shoot-out, ultimately won by Robert Johnston of Hatko, who received the winner's well-deserved bottle of bubbly!
Last spring and early summer, we built a new synthetic pitch for Sevenoaks Town FC. They are very pleased with it - so pleased, in fact, that they renamed their facilities the Bourne Stadium. (Well, there may have been a small sponsorship involved too.) Their First team remains top of the league and they have not lost a single home game on the new pitch - how's that for extra added bonus?
Sevenoaks Town have over 50 different teams so the pitch is in use every day. It is holding up beautifully - although they have to be very vigilant to stop visiting players from bringing inappropriate footwear on to it. Although a fully synthetic pitch like this is not cheap, Sevenoaks' Chairman Paul Lansdale was able to raise the necessary funding in clever ways, partly with grants from the town council and partly with well-constructed loans from members.
So the idea came up - let's bring together some of our team, Paul L and a specialist consultant on raising funds for sports organisations, Karen Woolland from WCTD, and do an open day in the midst of winter, when the advantages of a well-drained synthetic pitch over poor water-logged natural grass are at their most visible. The date was set for 6 February, and we have invited football clubs, councils and schools from the region to come and hear how Sevenoaks got their pitch together, and how we can help others to do the same.
Apart from Bourne Sport staff, we will bring along Steve Wilcockson from Surfacing Standards, specialists in synthetic sports surfaces, and Rob de Heer from Sports Pitch Engineering. The evening will start at 7pm and we will have presentations, catering, general mingling and watch the Sevenoaks teams training on their pitch.
If you are thinking of getting a fully synthetic or hybrid pitch for your club, or school, but wonder how to find the cash to pay for it, this is the event for you. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or ring 01797 252298 and I'll send you an invitation.
There will be a report from the event next week.