Sports club takeover bid on council pitches

MCHG 12-752   Berkhamsted Raiders training .
MCHG 12-752 Berkhamsted Raiders training .
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A SPORTS club has launched a bid to take over council-controlled football pitches that are regularly allowed to fall into an unusable state.

The under-13s Berkhamsted Raiders home game on Sunday, September 9, had to be cancelled after maintenance workers left thick lumps off grass strewn all over their football field.

MCHG 12-752   Berkhamsted Raiders training .

MCHG 12-752 Berkhamsted Raiders training .

Raiders chairman Keith Pollard found the mess at the Lagley Meadow pitch just two days before kick-off.

He said: “I thought, ‘Enough is enough. This is ridiculous.’ We have got a battle going on while we are trying to take ownership of council pitches.

“Dealing with the council is an added burden for sports clubs. If you have got a big, well-run club, they will do a damn sight better at running pitches than any council would.”

He said Dacorum Borough Council did clean up the mess in the two days before the under-13s match – but only after he complained to the press. And by then he’d already cancelled it.

Berkhamsted Raiders now plans to takeover the town’s partly council-owned Velvet Lawn playing fields.

The Raiders is one of the biggest youth football clubs in the UK with 700 members.

Since 2006, its number of teams has gone from 18 to 56. But Mr Pollard says the council has done nothing to rectify a shortage of Berkhamsted pitches that it recognised in that year.

There were 16 then and the Raiders has funded 12 extra pitches since then, but it says more are still needed.

David Austin, the council’s assistant director for neighbourhood delivery, blamed the poor condition of council pitches on ‘difficult weather conditions’. He apologised and said the council works hard to maintain them.