Rainy days and cancelled games
With the unseasonably wet weather and following a few questions from some parents and managers, I felt it was appropriate to update you all on our approach to the need to cancel games due to bad weather, and our longer term plans to enhance our pitches and facilities.
This Autumn is predicted to be the wettest for two decades, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. This has meant that we have had to make some difficult decisions about cancelling matches as some pitches have been unplayable due to being waterlogged or would suffer long term damage if we played too many games on them. We fully appreciate the frustrations of all players, parents and managers when this happens especially as we are keen to have as many games happening as we can.
Match cancellation process
Ash Lupton, the Raiders Pitch Coordinator, schedules home games on a Monday and advises managers of KO times and locations. Each of our playing locations has an allocated Pitch Liaison volunteer – a Raiders parent – who is responsible for liaising with the site owner and making a judgement call on whether games can go ahead, apart from two locations – Berkhamsted Cricket Club and Berkhamsted School Haslam Field – where the decision to call off games is taken by the site owner. At other locations, the Raiders volunteer inspects the pitches the evening before or early on the morning of a match and makes a recommendation. This is then shared with our Pitch Coordination group and we reach a consensus on what games should be played. Last weekend, we were forced to cancel all games at some locations. At others, we cancelled the earlier game of two scheduled for some pitches as we didn’t think, with the rain, that the pitches could take two games in quick succession.
Deciding if a pitch is playable
A pitch may appear to be playable, but we know from experience that playing several games on them in very wet conditions can result in long term damage which we need to avoid. A damp pitch after rain can become a boggy mess even after one game, as we have seen recently. We take this into account when making a call on whether we can play one, two or no games on any given match day.
We also need to be conscious that in many cases we share the use of pitches with local schools; overuse or misuse can negatively impact our relationships with them and ongoing access to them.
The success of the Club in retaining children as they go up through the age groups has meant that we now have greater than ever requirements for larger youth pitches (9v9 and 11v11) which are in short supply in the local area. This growth in youth football is contrasted with the relative decline in Sunday senior football:
- Over the last nine years. Raiders has grown from 39 teams to 94 teams with 1,200 players
- The adult Berkhamsted Sunday Football League has fallen from a peak of 62 teams to 30 this season.
The solution to the overuse of our existing pitches is to have access to more pitches across the local area. There are several areas that we are working on including:
- Creating new pitches
There are three new youth pitches at Durrants Lane which were funded through a section 106 agreement related to the housing at Bearroc Park. These were due to be available 12 months ago and are now ready for use with pitches marked out and goalposts erected. However due to bureaucratic issues there have been several delays and we have been advised these may now not be available until 2020. We are doing our very best to work with local Council Officers and Councillors to get these pitches into use as quickly as possible.
- Making underused adult pitches available for youth football
As mentioned previously there are several pitches around Berkhamsted that are being underutilised due to the decline in Senior Sunday League football, often only being used once every two weeks. These include Dacorum BC pitches at Velvet Lawn and Butts Meadow, and the parish council pitch at Northchurch where the councils have been supportive, but we have faced resistance from the local adult teams and the league. We have also approached Parish Councils in Potten End, Aldbury and Bellingdon but so far, the Parish Councils haven’t been receptive to allowing us access. Whilst it may seem odd to play Raiders matches in surrounding villages, we do have a significant number of members who come from these villages, as they may not have their own youth teams. This may be an area we could enlist your support to lobby your local parish council to allow us to use these local pitches for local players.
- Improving pitch quality
At Ashlyns, a major investment was made in improving pitch quality over the Summer. This cost was shared between Raiders and Ashlyns but resulted in a 140% increase in our annual charges for use. We need to ensure that this additional investment in pitch maintenance does not go to waste and ensure that we maintain a good relationship with the school by avoiding overuse and misuse of pitches. Investing in pitch maintenance (aeration, seeding, weed kill, worm treatment, more frequent cutting) as we have done at Ashlyns, improves the drainage and the quality of the playing surface. We have employed the services of an FA Pitch Advisor to inspect and report on the pitches at Ashlyns, Bridgewater, Lagley Meadow, Velvet Lawn, Wigginton and Durrants Lane. In the coming weeks, the Football Foundation is introducing a new funding scheme for grass pitch maintenance to improve pitch quality. We will be applying for funding for improving our playing locations.
- Longer term pitch and facility development
As Club Chairman, my priority is to ensure the delivery of a Raiders clubhouse and home playing pitches that we own and control. We have strong support from the FA, the Football Foundation and local Councillors to achieve this aim. Dacorum BC has recently published its Playing Pitch Strategy and Action Plan which highlights the lack of provision, future demand and the need for additional supply. But, of course, publishing a plan doesn’t mean they have the funds to solve the problem or will take the actions needed to remedy the situation. The Club is actively pursuing a development project that would significantly enhance provision. If you would like to get involved in the project team, please drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope that this gives you a better understanding of our decision-making process when we need to reluctantly cancel matches and what we are doing to alleviate some of these issues in the longer term. If you have any questions about any of this don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Let’s hope we see better weather in the coming weeks!
|Berkhamsted Raiders CFC|