Council investigation over pitch issues

Ald. Stewart McDonald
Ald. Stewart McDonald

An investigation has been launched by Mid and East Antrim Council after the County Antrim Shield final between Crusaders and Linfield was called off last week.

A pitch inspection at the Showgrounds at around 2.30pm on Tuesday afternoon resulted in the decision - understood to be a fifth game postponed within the current campaign at the council-owned venue.

Indeed, the Shield semi-final between hosts Ballymena United and Linfield was twice put back due to a waterlogged pitch.

The pitch was relaid last summer at the estimated cost of £250,000 to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

It is a situation described as “totally unacceptable” in a statement from Mid & East Antrim Borough Council.

“We are extremely disappointed and hugely frustrated by the condition of the playing surface at Ballymena Showgrounds,” said a Mid & East Antrim Borough Council spokesperson.

They added: “We have launched a full investigation into the current issues in order to find a long-term solution.

“We want the pitch at the Showgrounds to be among the very best in Northern Ireland and we are committed to ensuring we will deliver this for the people of Mid and East Antrim, and the football fraternity.

“The current situation is totally unacceptable, and we apologise unreservedly for the disruption caused.”

Local TUV councillor, Alderman Stewart McDonald, said that the matter needs to be addressed “urgently”, particularly given the £250,000 invested by council on the new pitch at the Showgrounds.

‪“For some time I have been concerned about the state of the pitch at Ballymena Showgrounds,” Ald. McDonald said.

He added: ““As people are only too well aware £250,000 of ratepayers’ money was invested in the new pitch which was installed last summer.

“Yet it is clear that there is a serious issue with drainage with a considerable amount of water lying on the pitch on Tuesday lunchtime following a relatively moderate amount of rainfall.‬

“The situation looks so bad that one wonders if the drains have collapsed.

‪“I believe we need to address this matter urgently and ensure that the pitch is up to standard.”

Ballymena United have welcome the council statement and are hopeful of an improvement to the playing surface.

“We welcome Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s statement and apology, and we are encouraged of their public commitment to ensure that the surface will be among the very best in Northern Ireland,” a statement from the club said.

The statement added: “The club are hopeful that the outcome of the investigation into the current issues will see an improved playing surface through to the end of the season.”