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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

MUD BATH battle continues to spoil play at the Showgrounds

The waterlogged pitch at Ballymena Showgrounds last Saturday.

It was a weekend of disappointment for both teams and supporters at the Ballymena Showgrounds when heavy rain showers resulted in a badly waterlogged football pitch.

Ballymena United were scheduled to play the second-round tie with Portstewart at Warden Street, on Saturday (5 February).

The pitch has produced a number of disappointments and received much criticism since it was unveiled in November 2018, with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council making a major investment of £250,000 at the venue.

The Council invested £250,000 in the grounds in 2018.

The new pitch completed in November 2018.

At the time, the then Mayor of the borough Lindsay Millar stated:

“I am delighted the programme of extensive work on the pitch at Ballymena Showgrounds is now complete and everybody involved in this project is over the moon with the results.

“This work was carried out to the highest standard and involved significantly improving drainage and the quality of the playing surface to work towards meeting European standards.

“We now have one of the best playing surfaces in the country.”

The cancellation of Saturday’s fixture due to pitch problems was just the latest over the last few years. In February 2019, three months after the pitch works were completed, the local authority “apologised unreservedly” and said it was “totally unacceptable” when the high-profile County Antrim Shield Final between Linfield and Crusaders was postponed.

Ballymena United club officials said that after checking the pitch on Saturday at 10am it was fine, but by 11:30am the pitch was “unplayable following a short period of rain.”

Ballymena United Chairman, John Taggart commented:

“It is extremely disappointing to see the pitch in this state when all other games, both Irish Cup and local Saturday Morning League were all able to go ahead. Indeed the senior side were able to train on another grass pitch within the complex this afternoon with no problems.

“Ballymena United are committed to finding a solution from Mid and East Antrim Council to ensure that the Showgrounds main arena surface is of a standard befitting the highest standard of local football.”

Responding to the latest Warden Street woes, a spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said:

“Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has said it ‘deeply regrets’ the postponement of Saturday’s match, which it said ‘followed a period of heavy, persistent rainfall’.

“We share the disappointment and inconvenience this caused both clubs, their management and their supporters.

“We work closely with Ballymena United in an effort to achieve the best standard of facilities at the Showgrounds.

“This has previously included significant works to the pitch in 2018 to ensure it met European dimensions, and this was subsequently achieved.

“However, the grass playing surface has proved difficult to manage.

“The remedial work carried out to date on the playing surface has been as a result of interim solutions.

“Moving forward in the short-term, we are working with a number of pitch maintenance specialists to manage and improve the pitch on an ongoing basis.

“Long-term, like many across Northern Ireland, we urgently require the release of the promised Sub Regional Stadia Funding to significantly upgrade the pitch and facilities to the highest possible standard.

“We will continue to work closely with our partners, including Ballymena United, and thank them for their patience during what has been a very challenging and frustrating time for us all.”

The match has been rescheduled for Tuesday 15 February and the winners will host Larne in the last eight.

Image: Mark Cannon (ImmersiveNI)


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