Torfaen citizens have voiced their concern about the decline in football fields in its constituency. Since 2009 they have lost 30 council-owned football fields. Elsewhere in Wales the trend is happening too.
A study by GMB Union has revealed that more than 80 council football pitches have been lost in Wales since 2010. In 2009/10 Torfaen had 38 council-owned pitches, but this number has plummeted to just eight in 2017/18 – down 30 pitches.
A spokesperson for Blaenavon Blues, one of the teams affected by the cuts, told the South Wales Argus: “the biggest impact for a club like ours is a lack of suitable maintenance equipment. We have to cut and maintain four pitches in Blaenavon and have done for a number of years. To buy suitable mowers costs thousands of pounds and we currently don’t have anything suitable but are applying for grants.”
According to a survey recently released by the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC), Wales currently has 50 synthetic turf fields. As a rule of thumb a synthetic turf field provides a similar capacity as four natural grass fields. However, the Blaenavon Blues spokesman pointed out another issue why the community is getting worried about the decline. “Another massive issue in Blaenavon and north Torfaen is a lack of 3G floodlit facilities. There’s only one in Torfaen at Cwmbran and it’s one of the most expensive in Gwent. For our teams from under-5s through to men’s teams we have to travel out of town. We travel out of town for training during the winter months to Abergavenny or Ebbw Vale.”
Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary said to the South Wales Argus: “Councils have had their funding cut in half since 2010 – they’re struggling to fund the basics and keep the show on the road. We’re living through an unprecedented decade in Welsh football where Cardiff and Swansea have flown the flag for Wales in the Premier league, Newport County have returned to the football league and of course the unforgettable Euro 2016 odyssey for the national side. Just contrast that with this sorry state of affairs at grassroots, where opportunities for the next generation of players are being trashed.”
The Blaenavon Blues spokesperson said: “I don’t think this (that the next generation is being ‘trashed’) is something we would agree with. Our numbers continue to grow, but it does put a massive strain on volunteers, coaches and committees, as well as a massive financial burden.”
Leroy Rosenior, former West Ham, Fulham and QPR striker, said: “It’s a national tragedy that fewer and fewer kids will have a place to play as a result of short-sighted cuts, putting efforts to open football up to more youngsters and develop diverse, welcoming and healthy sporting communities in jeopardy.”