A public meeting has been held in the Northeast town Portlethen as a campaign for a 3G pitch led by ‘Portlethen Sports Club’ picks up pace.
Over 70 members of the community and four local councillors attended the meeting at Hillside academy on Wednesday the 2nd of May. Former Scotland, Motherwell and Aberdeen manager Craig Brown was also present to show his backing for the push for a new surface.
A pitch, currently 2G, at Portlethen Academy is due for renewal. Costs for the renewal will be covered by Robertson’s, the company who built and manage the Academy.
Portlethen Sports Club has claimed Robertson’s will fund whatever type of pitch the Academy and Council ask for. Despite no extra cost to them, the council plan a like for like replacement of the current surface, as opposed to an improved technology.
Ken Watson, the Chairman of Portlethen District Community Council and the Sports Club’s Secretary Craig McMorrin both spoke of their disbelief at the decision.
Craig McMorrin said, “ There is no reason not to upgrade the pitch to a 3G surface, both the SFA and SRU have said that a 2G pitch is not suitable for training or matches”.
Craig went on to explain how the current pitch lays empty 95% of the time. In its current state it’s only used 11 times over the course of a football season, a combined 22 hours, solely for a men’s hockey team.
Meanwhile, 32 youth football games have been cancelled due to weather over the past year, many of which, if not all, could have been played on a 3G pitch.
Hockey teams over the age of 3rd year would be unable to use a 3G pitch as advanced hockey must be on a 2G pitch – however, a 3G surface would allow for both Football and Rugby, of which there are multiple age groups playing.
Some attendees made the point that the over 200 kids currently playing football with Portlethen Sports Club, Rugby players and multiple other football teams including those from Newtonhill, Cove and Fishermoss would make more use of the facilities than the Hockey team.
It was also pointed out that there were additional areas, including an area next to the meetings venue, which could be developed into a new 2G pitch for sports such as hockey.
The pitch also has a charge to rent, and it has been argued that far more revenue will be made from renting an upgraded pitch.
While all four North Kincardine Councillors, Alastair Bews, Alison Evison, Ian Mollison and Colin Pike, attended the meeting, it soon became clear it was those above them – Council officers and the Chief Executive, who were blocking the move. With all four giving their backing.
Councillor Bews said, “I’ve been right behind the pitch from the word go. The lack of consultation is scandalous.” All the councillors, as well as the community, were not consulted on the decision and the councillor urged the community to press on with their petition, which would allow the councillors to have a say.
The community council was informed earlier on the day of the meeting that none of the officers, nor the chief executive would be attending, which was not a popular decision among attendees.
Craig McMorrin said, “The response we have received is that the council and academy head teacher want a 2G pitch. We are told this is due to the school curriculum, the need of the 2G for other activities and health and safety. The council has not elaborated on what the curriculum is or what these other activities are, and we believe the 3G to be safer than 2G”
Another community council member noted how his men’s football team will not train on the 2G as they perceive it to be too dangerous for adults, never mind children.
A piece of research was quoted as saying 2G surfaces see an increase of knee strains by 20% and muscle injuries by 40% in comparison with 3G.
One particular case has been highly publicised on the dangers of 3G surfaces. 20 year old Lewis Maguire died at the age of 20 earlier this year after a four year battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Lewis’s family are convinced his condition was caused after years of playing as a goalkeeper on artificial surfaces.
Lewis had on multiple occasions swallowed the pellets used on these pitches as well as finding them lodged in grazes and cuts. His father, Nigel Maguire, the ex-Chief Executive of NHS Cumbria, believed the pellets which are made from old car tyres contained chemicals which caused Lewis’s illness.
Over a year ago however, Sports minister Tracey Crouch responded to the claims, saying studies had found no evidence of these connections.
Councillor Alison Evison added to her colleague’s earlier comments, she said, “The need for a 3G pitch is obvious. The way things have been done thus far is not the right way about it”.
Similar comments were mirrored by Councillors Ian Mollison and Colin Pike. Both urged the public to continue getting more signatures on the online petition – which currently has nearly 1000 signatures - as this would force their superiors into action.
Councillor Pike also suggested that Portlethen residents send emails to the councils chief executive to show their support for the campaign.
The meeting was drawn to a close by Craig Brown – who is now a part of the Aberdeen FC board. Brown, who is self admittedly a huge supporter of artificial pitches such as the new proposed pitch, spoke on why he is such an advocate.
Brown said, “I was invited along because I am a great advocate for 3G”
“I give great credit to the councillors for coming along and offering their support and advice. Although, there is clearly an issue in the system.”
“People may sometimes complain about 3G pitches but you’ll get as good of a game on 3G pitches as on grass. 18 years ago, every village in Norway had an indoor pitch, same with Iceland, and look at how they are doing, Scotland needs to catch up.”
The sport club’s petition is still online and the group are looking for as many signatures as possible to sway council opinion. The petition can be found here -