By Dylan James
“If these children don’t play regularly they lose interest, and sport has lost them forever”.
That’s the fear among parents of children in the Torfaen community who claim a desperate shortage of facilities is having a long term impact on budding sports stars.
Gareth Miles, vice-chairman of Fairfield United juniors, says the region is struggling to manage its sporting environment, with just one pitch to cater for over 1,000 participants.
“In Torfaen there is one 3G pitch. Our boys teams aged 7-15 are not allowed outside of Torfaen to play matches,” said Mr Miles.
“So with around 11+ clubs and countless teams in all age groups you’re talking of over 100 teams and over 1,000 children with access to one 3G pitch.”
With such bad weather events in recent weeks, sporting communities in Wales have suffered heavily, hence the need for more 3G ‘all-weather’ pitches. Gareth explained on Twitter that more should be done for the region.
He said: “We (Fairfield) have access to 3 grass pitches but in this weather all we see is “game cancelled” football is one of the highest grossing sports.”
Kelly Jones, a mother of two sons who play rugby, explained: “Our young people are suffering right now. We need to invest for the future.”
The Rhondda Cynon Taf region boasts a 3G pitch within three miles of every resident, Kelly wants a similar input into Torfaen.
She added: “As we have only one facility in the area for football, booking the facility is practically impossible due to amount of clubs/teams trying to do same thing.
“In other councils (RCT) for example – they have a 3G facility within 3 miles of every house in the area!”
Kelly helps run the junior section of Pontypool United, with over 200 children eager to play every week. She believes that the future of Torfaen’s youth is at risk.
“The links between mental health and sport have been proven – we should be encouraging by every means necessary,” she said.
“Leaving the obvious physical benefits aside, if kids stop sport, then the dedication, respect and following the rules and sense of belonging is lost also.”
The pitch fees at Torfaen’s only 3G facility are also a lot more expensive compared to other facilities, like at GOL in Cardiff, which charges £39 per hour whereas Torfaen is £120 for two hours. (Source: golcentres.co.uk)
Fairfield have over 150 children, 2 senior teams and a veterans team, all sharing one pitch. The demand for facilities has been so high, Gareth Miles explained that Torfaen is struggling to cope.
He said: “The lack of 3G pitches makes it so much harder. Using all available money for each team trying to get a game on. All volunteers themselves trying to book a pitch that hundreds for others are trying to play on.”
Torfaen County Council has been asked to comment but has not responded.