by Ethan Harris
POOR pitch conditions around Cardiff could lead to more children walking away from football, according to grassroots coaches.
They expressed concerns around future participation levels as parks around the city were unused from September 21st until last weekend.
Some clubs therefore face a logjam of games towards the end of the season and have had to bear the brunt of the cost of 3G pitch hire.
Speaking at the Football Association of Wales Trust conference on grassroots football, called for more 3G options to be made available to keep children playing football on a regular basis.
John Norman, a coach at the Cardiff Corinthians under-13’s girl’s side, has expressed grave concerns over a lack of development in children as his team are forced to travel to Newport for their closest available pitch.
“Children will walk away from football and their progression will be abated really, it’s just not going to work, they need to be playing,” he said.
“I think we’re safe, but some clubs would risk players finding other activities to do on the weekend and walking away from the game as well.
“It would be tragic, especially from my point of view for girls with a bit of ability and who are keen, but they need to play, they have to be playing games.
“The difficulty of being a Cardiff based club in Division two of the under-13’s league, our closest club is Newport or Llanwern high school and we travel to places like Abergavenny, so mid-week games are out of the question this year.
“We don’t really have a 3G option, some teams around us do, but 3G pitches in the Cardiff area are all booked out on Sundays.”
“Investing in more 3G pitches is a step in the right direction, although as a bit of a traditionalist I prefer grass but if the girls can’t play football the facilities are essential.”
The FAW Trust plans to have 100 3G pitches in Wales by 2024 in a bid to keep more children active throughout the country.
There are currently eight full size pitches available in the Cardiff area, along with seven half-sized artificial surfaces.
However, a lack of funding means that many areas, particularly North Wales, largely miss out when it comes to 3G availability.
Barry Town’s under-9 side are one of the lucky few to have facilities available during poor weather conditions, and their coach Richard Yarr has called for more reasonable costs to allow more children to be involved in Welsh football at a young age.
“It’s so expensive now, we looked at a dome similar to the one here at Treforest, and it was around £100 an hour, not many clubs can afford that,” he said.
“You have subs, but you can’t continue if you were going to do it week in and week out, unless you have good sponsors and not every club can do that.
“If they want children to progress and get more sport in Wales then they need to do a reasonable price for more kids to want to be playing outside in any weather or playing with their friends and socialising.
“If they’re not playing, what other things are they going to do?
“Computer games or the rugby is always on but if your child only likes football, it’s hard to do anything because computer games get more involved along with iPad’s and things like that.
“I know you have training but it’s totally different to a game, if some of them are in the academy and they go on the 3G that’s great for them but not every child can progress that way.
“Without playing for four to six weeks, it kills the amount we get turning up, as computer games get more involved and it stops sport progressing more around the community.
“There are teams around Llantwit where because they play on grass it gets called off, but because we have so many 3G options in the Vale of Glamorgan, I think that’s helped progress the kids because they’re constantly playing every week.
“It’s so much better to play on grass but with the 3G pitches making it possible to play all year round, there’s a progression for it especially if there’s more in Cardiff, that’s better for football in Wales.”