Apologies if this comes as a surprise to any of you, but the JJB stadium is built next to the River Douglas.Â Further shocks may lie in the fact that, with it being in Marsh Green it is probably built on… wait for it … a marsh.Â For good measure, and just in case it has slipped your attention, those little silver things dotted around the outside indicate that the site was, in the not too distant past, a tip.
Of course, if you’ve not spotted those things then you’ve probably spent the last eight years or so wondering why the pitch spends a good proportion of the football season flip flopping between the states of virtually unplayable and embarrassing.Â If you had spotted any of those issues then, you’re just as likely to have spent the Latics’ time at their new ground in a state of confusion.
Â£1.5 million for a bit of grass (ok, a bit of grass with some plastic thrown in for good measure) and whilst the reasons for needing a ‘state of the art’ pitch are blatantly obvious, the same reasons made it pretty much essential that they got it right first time.Â It’s wholly possible that they did, as long as you don’t assume that a ‘state of the art’ pitch doesn’t mean you get a bogof on a ‘state of the art’ drainage system.
I’m certainly no expert on this subject, but it strikes me as, at best, naive to assume that draining the pitch into the very water source that is likely to be a major contributor to its dampness is a good idea.Â If other grounds next to rivers have similar systems then you still have to ask why they don’t have the same problems, or, if they do, how do they manage them better than we seem to?
Whatever the situation, it all points to one thing.Â Whatever system we have in place is inadequate.Â If anything can be done without ripping the pitch up then it needs to be done sharpish.Â If the pitch needs to come up then frankly, we’re screwed.
We wouldn’t be talking about a (relatively) simple relaying of the pitch.Â That might buy some time, some embarrassment and a couple of results, but it does nothing to fix the real problem.
To do that, I’m guessing, will require digging down, laying new drainage, basically starting from scratch.Â Realistically that would have to be done at a time when grass grows, i.e. the summer.
I suppose there could have been the possibility of doing that when both clubs were under the same ownership.Â A polite request to the Superleague about the arrangement of home fixtures, a deal or two with other local clubs and hey presto, the pitch is getting a rest.Â However the rugby have been sold and any such arrangements would now have to be agreed with their management and, perhaps more pertinently, run the risk of financial penalties and the like, so no chance there then.
As I said in my Everton report, I’ve no idea how this can be resolved but we surely can’t go on like this.Â A pitch that makes football difficult is one thing but one that is dangerous is another, and that’s the way things are heading.
It’s bad enough that no one wants up in this league and that our players seem hell bent on seeing up out of it, without giving anyone an excuse to dig out the rules on standards of facilities.Â Maybe some of the ever growing war chest could go on getting us a new battlefield, before we don’t need one.
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