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Council / Councillors impressed by condition of local football pitches

Plan to make isles play parks more inclusive is approved

THE top-notch condition of Shetland’s football pitches has come in for effusive praise from members of Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee.

SNP councillor Robbie McGregor.

At a committee meeting on Monday morning, South Mainland member Robbie McGregor said he had been reading his council papers while watching TV coverage of a Patrick Thistle FC match on Friday night and noted that the grass on Lerwick’s pitches compared favourably to the Firhill playing surface.

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McGregor offered his “warmest congratulations to everyone involved” in maintaining such high quality playing surfaces, more than a match for some professional teams’ surfaces on the Scottish mainland, adding: “If they [local footballers] cannae play football on a surface like that they shouldn’t be on the park!”

SIC sport and leisure services manager Neil Watt said that, having experienced amateur football on the mainland, he always told young players in the islands that “these are the best surfaces they will probably ever play on”.

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Committee chairman George Smith said the excellent playing surfaces were testament to a partnership between the council – which maintains parks in Lerwick – and the wider volunteer community in rural areas.

Lerwick councillor John Fraser said he acknowledged the surfaces were “exceptional” but pointed out the Shetland climate still led to the local football season being curtailed.

Asked by Fraser to identify the benefits of building an all-weather playing surface, Watt said it would enable outdoor football to be played year-round.

Currently the season runs from April to September and, though there would still potentially be limitations depending on people’s willingness to “play in the heart of the winter when it really is pretty horrible weather”, an artificial surface would “have significant benefits, definitely”, Watt added.

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Meanwhile, members approved plans for Scottish Government funding to be used to make play parks around the islands more accessible to children with limited mobility.

Funding set to be used to create inclusive play parks

 

The local authority received an initial £28,000 capital grant to upgrade play parks in the first year of the government scheme and is expected to receive around £70,000 a year from now until 2025/26.

Local charity Ability Shetland will be involved in the process to identify which parks could be upgraded.

Watt said Shetland had a “fairly wide distribution of play areas” – 84 in total – that are “generally in a very good condition”.

“We have staff that spend a lot of time maintaining them,” he said. “What we probably suffer from is a lack of inclusive play areas right across Shetland.

“What we want is to try and have a number of [more inclusive parks] in fairly central locations, making it relatively easy for families to be able to travel to one.”

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