St Albans and Harpenden football teams suffer a winter of discontent due to waterlogged pitches

Waterlogged football pitches at Rothamsted park

Waterlogged football pitches at Rothamsted park - Credit: Archant

Heavy rain throughout the winter has played havoc with grassroots football fixtures across the St Albans district.

Numerous games have had to be cancelled because of waterlogged pitches and local teams have found themselves having to play catch up as the football season nears its end.

Harpenden Colts, which boasts a total of 50 teams for girls and boys aged between six and 18, was not able to host fixtures at home until the weekend of February 27 and 28.

All they had to show for their season was weekly postponements of games for their squads.

They estimate nearly 100 games have been postponed with 12 matches a week being called off over a two-month period.

Colts chairman Ian Holden said: “The council have put up a great facility at Rothamsted but unfortunately it has been very wet since last year.

“I’m sure they will try and get the fixtures in somehow and the players will probably get a lot of football in April, but it’s still very frustrating.”

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Training for the club’s youngest team has been particularly compromised with the under-seven sides unable to practice on the Rothamsted Park pitches. Some of the older squads have been able to train at other facilities in the county.

Ian said: “Football is unfortunately a winter sport and we know what winter can be like in the UK. But we know we are far from the only club affected.”

The club’s long-term goal is to set up an all-weather facility which they are progressing in conjunction with Roundwood Park School

Ian added: “Obviously there is a gap in Harpenden for all-weather facilities and we are working to try and get that filled in the near future if we can.”

The Colts are not the only club affected. Some of the teams at Sandridge Rovers may be forced into playing some games as ‘double headers’ before the end of the season.

That will involve two shortened matches played in succession on the same pitch on the same day to make up outstanding fixtures.

Youth chairman Jon Pinkham, who has been associated with the club for nearly 20 years, said his under-18 team had played one home game since October 11.

He went on: “It has been very frustrating for the players, principally because it can be more work to postpone a match and let everyone know and make new arrangements and quite often we have had to put everything in place just in case the game will be playable.”

Sandridge have dug small holes in the turf at the Spencer Recreation Ground in the hope of getting the water to drain away but it is only a temporary fix.

Jon added: “We have spent money to try and remove the water which could help us next winter but these methods are only a short-term solution.”

Herts FA county development manager, Karl Lingham, said that nearly 80% of football in Herts was played on local authority facilities and the Herts FA understood and appreciated that each local authority in the county was facing pressure to deliver on an increasing variety of fronts with a decreasing level of resources.

He went on: “The FA, Hertfordshire FA and local authorities are committed to improving football facilities at all levels of the game though. The Football Foundation – funded by The FA, The Premier League and The Government – will invest more than a quarter of a billion pounds in news grassroots football facilities over the next four years.

“This week The FA has also announced a multi-million pound drive to improve grass pitches around the country in order to improve the quality of existing grassroots facilities. This investment illustrates our commitment to meet the demand for quality facilities in every local authority area.”