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State of pitches at Portadown People’s Park and Kernan hampering local football clubs

Kernan Playing Fields

The state of pitches at Portadown People’s Park and Kernan playing fields are having a real impact on local football clubs, Council has heard.

And that has prompted Council’s director of Environmental Services and Sustainability, Jonathan Hayes, to commit to investigating the regular complaints regarding the state of the pitches in the area.

Speaking at Monday night’s monthly meeting of the local authority, Councillor Paul Duffy referred to a incident, last Saturday (April 27) where a Mid Ulster referee had deemed the People’s Park unplayable, which led to a match being cancelled.

The Sinn Féin representative stated: “It was about the state of the pitches in the People’s Park. I know I got an email saying there was an inspection and they were playable, but the referee had deemed them to be a health and safety risk if the match went ahead.

“Now [it seems that] Mid Ulster referees are not communicating with the council, or the council isn’t communicating with them.

“I would ask that the council get in touch with Mid Ulster, get a look at the referee’s report on the pitches, particularly in the People’s Park and even right across the borough, to see what there is, because there are issues.

“It’s costing teams travelling from Annalong to Portadown bus money and it’s not cheap; it’s costing the teams three points because referees aren’t allowing them to play, so I would actually ask that we inspect all our pitches, and see what we can do as a council to bring them up to what our teams deserve.”

DUP Alderman Mark Baxter explained that facilitating the Craigavon Cup was made really difficult because of pitch issues.

“In terms of the Craigavon Cup, I’ve been involved in that for the last 10 years, since it got off the ground, every year there seems to be issues there,” he said.

“I just want to put on record that maybe officers would liaise with the organisers of the Craigavon Cup, because every year there seems to be an issue, and it’s always the Friday night before it’s due to take place the next day, and I’m running about torturing directors and stuff at 7pm or 8pm at night, to make sure that everything is in place.

“In terms of the pitches at the People’s Park, there does seem to be something there going on.”

Alliance councillor, Robbie Alexander, said that the problem was just as bad at Kernan Playing Fields.

“Not quite Portadown, but the pitches out at Kernan. They’re full every week, it’s where a lot of the matches for the Craigavon Cup take place,” he said.

“There are a bunch of pitches off to the other side of the towpath. They’ve actually just put new goalposts up on these pitches, but the grass is three-foot long, it seems a bit pointless to put brand-new goalposts when you can’t use them, and they would definitely be used if that space was maintained to a proper standard.

“If there was a strategy or a plan around it, it would seem to make an awful lot of sense, seeing that they have already spent money on putting new goalposts there.”

Addressing these related issues, the senior council officer stated: “In relation to Cllr Duffy and the People’s Park, there was correspondence with you this evening in relation to pitch inspection that was carried out in relation to that particular match, and the pitch inspection deemed it to be fit to play, and safe to play.

“I know the referee hadn’t engaged with staff on the ground, but certainly we’ll speak to Mid Ulster League in that regard.

“To Alderman Baxter, in relation to the Craigavon Cup, it’s a prestigious event there annually, but over the last number of years – as you have quite rightly said – there’s been a number of issues that we’ve had to resolve at the last moment, and we’ll [arrange] an urgent meeting prior to this year’s event.

“In relation to Cllr Alexander and the pitches at Kernan, I’ll follow that up with the head of Department and come back to members in that regard.”

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