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Clubs struggle as weather hits grassroot sport

[Press center5] time:2023-06-02 03:43:41 source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center6 click:182order

Grassroots teams in Wales say they are struggling to play the sport they love as heavy rain floods their pitches.

Caerphilly AFC have faced multiple problems, largely due to poor weather, and said the situation is costing them hundreds of pounds.

And Porthcawl RFC U15's have had to cancel some home games since January.

It comes after Wales experienced the fifth wettest March since records began in 1836, leaving many grounds and pitches unplayable.

Most clubs are responsible for their own maintenance, but do receive some support from bodies such as local councils and Sport Wales.

Sport Wales said they do offer support in times of extreme weather.

Wales recorded the wettest spring this year and Caerphilly AFC are just one team having issues due to their pitch being waterlogged.

They said they have to pay "hundreds of pounds in order to ensure games get played", having to rent generators, other pitches and mini buses.

Club members have also spent a lot hours clearing water and laying sand to make the fields playable.

This season, just four games have been played at home, which team manager Ian Butterworth said puts them at a "disadvantage".

Most of their games are played on 3G pitches nearby, which are better equipped for most weather, but come at a cost of about £200 per game, which the club funds through sponsorship and player contribution.

Ian, who is also part of the committee, said: "Caerphilly has such like a large catchment area, and it hasn't got a facility in the area that we can use.

"It's just nuts."

He added the situation further separates clubs like his from those with more money and better facilities.

"Clubs who play in a higher league get priority access for the 3G facilities even if they're from outside the area," he said.

"We're not funded by anybody. We haven't got a millionaire owner. So it's just we rely on the boys and local sponsorship."

Ian is speaking to the council about taking over a local park in order to put work in that would prevent this happening in the future.

But he said: "We are just up against it now, and the league's asking us questions about the pitch as it's never available. Should we be playing in this league?"

People like Ian are often volunteers and he said they put so much effort into it because they love the game and players are not paid.

So the club and their supporters have the extra stress of worrying about things such a petrol money to get to the playable sites.

It means they are constantly worried about the weather, he said.

This weekend they have provisionally booked a pitch in Cardiff, costing them £200.

"So the boys have to fund their own petrol money we try and lift share, but you know it's tough sometimes with people working," he added.

"Sometimes think you know what is the point?

"I put a lot of effort into it, and you know all voluntary, and I love it."

He said he feels like it is "going the right way" but said the challenges will continue until an alternative is found.

Jon Staples, a coach at Porthcawl RFC U15's, said communities need to come together to make sure facilities are usable.

"You just can't get on to a pitch, not only to play games, but even to train," he said.

"The pitches are so water damaged that if we were to train on them, it would just damage the pitch and we won't be able to use it at all in the future."

He said the solution is to "pump money" into grassroots sports and change pitches to 4G so that they can be used by the whole community all year round.

The other solution, he said, is to change the season with matches in the spring and summer rather than winter to stop people "losing out".

The Welsh government said "investing in grassroots facilities is a key commitment".

"We have allocated a budget of £8m a year - £24m over three years - to drive forward improvements that are key to increasing participation across all sports," it added.

"A number of pitches in Wales are in the control of local authorities, and they have a responsibility for their upkeep."

So far this Spring, it's been pretty mixed...

We've had our fifth wettest March on record, and records go back to 1836

The Met Office weather stations recorded over 200mm of rain, that's double our long-term average

Looking at climate change projections we expect milder and wetter winters

With more intense rainfall, this will mean outdoor sports pitches have a greater risk of flooding

Meanwhile, we expect hotter, drier summers and this will mean more people are at risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion whilst participating in sports.

Owen Hathway, Sport Wales' director of insight, policy and public affairs, said: "We want to see as many people taking part in sport as possible and, obviously, poor pitch conditions, especially in periods of significant bad weather, can be disruptive to this.

"Support is available though for community clubs and organisations who are struggling with pitch conditions."

He added the Be Active Wales Fund offers money to improve pitch quality for issues such as drainage and other upgrades.

Mr Hathway said the organisation work in collaboration with the FAW, Hockey Wales and the WRU, providing capital funding for the development of 3G pitches across Wales which helps to reduce the strain being put on grass pitches.

(editor-in-charge:Press center3)

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