Pitches have not been permanently decommissioned at the Leys Recreation Ground and this is a temporary suspension of use for urgent remedial work. All Teams were made aware of this as soon as the results of the annual inspection, carried out by the Sports Turf Research Institute, were known. The purpose of the inspection is to review agronomic conditions and performance of the sports pitches.
The affected pitches at the Leys are two 9 a side pitches, one 7 a side pitch and three 5 a side pitches. These are played by the junior teams which will be a mix of boys and girls football sides. The short-term unavailability of the pitches does not affect one gender more than any other. However, so far, the Council has not turned away a single booking this season.
The compaction is due to a number of causes, extreme heat, lack of rain and unauthorised training on the Leys junior pitches over the off-season. Every year at the end of the football season the Town Council carries out expensive and vital remedial work and for this reason we ask that teams to do not use them for training.
If this work cannot be done or the pitches are played before the work has time to take effect, then the sports turf and pitch suffer and as a result may fail safety inspections, as has been the case with the Leys.
We ask teams to notify us if they intend to use them for any reason, so we can ensure that the remedial work has a chance to take effect. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Because the effects of the remedial work were disrupted, the pitches are now unplayable, possibly until after Christmas at the earliest. Autumn is the only other suitable time to try to reinstate the pitches through decompaction and reseeding. This also results in a further cost to tax payers when remedial works have to be repeated.
The Council has recently brought its grounds maintenance contract back in house, and therefore it has greater control over the delivery of these works. We are going to be de-compacting the ground, improving the grass quality and doing all we can to get the ground safe for play again as soon as possible, but this is all weather dependent. We hope to run an earthquake machine over the field and aerate the pitches in the first two weeks of October supplemented by some further slitting operations in late October and mid-November. It is important to give the rejuvenated pitches as long a period as possible to build up a reasonable level of resilience and longevity for use.
The Town Council has been working extremely hard behind the scenes to try to secure additional pitches. All the existing pitches are oversubscribed with football being the dominant sport, having regular use at a subsidised cost of all of the Town Council’s grass pitches.
Last season Witney Town Council accommodated 51 football teams. This season demand has increased by a further 25%. Our officers work hard to make as many pitches available as possible with the resources we have available. Many are already over-used and this can result in long term damage. All teams know we are working to bring more online – we are at the mercy of third parties but have been making good progress over the last six months.