Small sports clubs struggling to survive

THE number of sports pitches, pools, tennis courts etc in the Borders is meeting current needs but when consultants looked at sports provision across the region they concluded that many of the facilities were in poor condition and some of the smaller clubs were struggling to survive.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 29th September 2010, 3:53 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th September 2010, 3:53 pm

Consultants Kit Campbell Associates report that the region has: 5 floodlit artificial turf pitches; 27 outdoor bowling clubs; 29 football pitches (113 teams); 22 golf clubs; 37 rugby pitches; 2 indoor bowls halls; ice rink; 14 sports halls; 7 swimming pools; and 13 tennis clubs with a total of 46 courts.

On the down side though: the artificial pitches have been designed for hockey and aren't popular for football or rugby; bowling clubs have low membership; there is only one floodlit football pitch; some golf clubs are struggling financially as are some bowling clubs; many rugby pitches are of poor quality; sports halls and pools are generally in need of reinvestment; and few tennis courts are floodlit, most have tarmac surfaces and some are in poor condition.

Championing a regional sports centre, three sports hubs and a network of 3G artificial turf pitches in the Borders, the consultants suggest that the current grass pitches favoured by football and rugby clubs will become unplayable for longer periods in the winter because of climate change, and may well become baked hard in the summer and prone to flooding after sudden deluges.

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Their preferred option would be to move as many games as possible onto artificial turf pitches, adding that "clubs and teams will have to accept that they can no longer have free access to training and match pitches".

With so many sport pitches scattered across the region the council are unable to manage them properly which means that most clubs are used to having free access to pitches, at least for training.

Despite this the consultants found that "clubs are very critical of the quality of pitches and related changing".

So far football and rugby clubs have been reluctant to use the existing artificial turf pitches because they have sand dressed surfaces but sporting bodies such as the East of Scotland Football Club and Border Amateur Football League have indicated they would train and play matches on the 3G surfaces.

The football organisations have also agreed that kick-off times for league matches can be varied which would mean that up to four matches could be played on one pitch in a day.

Scottish Rugby and Borders Rugby Club also support the provision of 3G pitches, particularly for training young players.

Kit Campbell envisage seven artificial turf pitches being provided at: Netherdale, Galashiels; Selkirk High School; Peebles High School; the old Berwickshire High School site, Duns; Volunteer Park, Hawick; Woodside Park, Kelso; and Elliott Park, Jedburgh.

They add: "Local communities will have to accept the loss of any pitches that are sold off.... and football and ruby clubs will have to accept the loss of grass pitches.

"They cannot expect to retain all of their current pitches and have the council provide them with a network of new artificial turf pitches designed to meet their needs."

A 20 million regional sports centre, most likely based at Netherdale, would be the focus for sports development in the Borders. It would have a sports hall with either six or eight badminton courts, and a low cost training hall for indoor athletics, cricket practice, 6-a-side cricket and indoor tennis.

A phased development of the sports centre is envisaged and the consultants set a target date of 2018 for it to open, operated by Borders Sports and Leisure Trust.

The consultants vision of future sports provision for the Borders was presented to Scottish Borders Council last week and a period of consultation will follow before councillors decide how to move forward, the option of doing nothing being the least likely scenario.