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Sport / Funding worth £650k on the table so far for new synthetic pitch at the Clickimin

Photo: Shetland Recreational Trust

EXTERNAL funding worth a total of £650,000 has been offered so far for a new 3G synthetic turf pitch at the Clickimin in Lerwick.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is ready to put £500,000 into the Shetland Islands Council project, with sportscotland offering £150,000.

With an application for £50,000 outstanding from the Scottish Rugby Union, and the local rugby club ready to provide £10,000 in match funding, the cost to the council – if it proceeds with the project – would be £490,000.

But the sizeable SFA funding is time limited and only available for projects that can be completed by June 2025.

The prospect of a new pitch was raised to councillors last year, with elected members voting to progress with funding bids.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison said at the time that the project “entirely hinges” on getting external funding.

They were told that an all-weather synthetic sports pitch could accommodate football and rugby all year round. The current rugby pitch at the Clickimin is regularly impacted by weather, leading to cancelled fixtures.

It is described as “essential for continuation and development of rugby and football in Shetland”.

Councillors also heard that an all-weather 3G pitch – which are more advanced than traditional artificial surfaces – at Clickimin North would also bolster the case for Shetland hosting a future Island Games.

There are already two synthetic pitches in Shetland – one in Brae, primarily for hockey, and another in Whalsay suitable for football – but the council does not own one itself.

A business justification case on the £1.2 million 3G pitch at the Clickimin is due to go in front of councillors on Tuesday and then again on Thursday (22 February) for a final decision.

It says it is estimated through booking income the pitch could bring in an operating surplus of £33,000 a year.

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The report added that a meeting was held in December between project lead SIC and Shetland Recreational Trust (SRT), which runs the nearby Clickimin Leisure Complex.

“The [SRT] board members confirmed that they were supportive of the 3G pitch project, because of the clear benefits that it would have for sport in Shetland, particularly rugby and football,” it said.

“However, it was acknowledged that the new pitch could have an impact on the number of bookings requested for the 60/40 facility and athletics track pitch, but would increase the number of bookings for the changing room at Clickimin.

“It was however noted that the 3G pitch was seeking to offer an alternative service that the 60/40 cannot provide, which is a full sized all weather pitch capable of accommodating 11-a-side football matches and 15-a-side rugby matches in the winter months, which is essential for the future development of these sports in Shetland.”

It was also agreed that during the worst of the winter month’s sports groups would continue to seek indoor facilities rather than an outdoor facility, other than when a full sized pitch was required.

It was also clarified that the construction of a new 3G pitch would not decrease the Anderson High School’s use of the Clickimin, and that a new pitch would provide an additional space for the delivery of school and extracurricular activities, similar to other secondary schools across Scotland.

It is one of a number of business justification cases being presented for approval, subject to affordability and the availability of funding in the budget setting process for 2024/25.

A report to councillors said many of the projects can only proceed if ones of the same value are delayed or removed from the current asset investment plan, or an additional draw is made on reserves.

It adds: “In light of the council’s current unsustainable financial position detailed in the medium term financial plan 2023-28, the council is not currently in a position to make a further unsustainable draw on reserves.”

The report also says that as there are ambitions to invest in other areas of capital spend, such as the learning estate and connectivity to the outer islands, the council will shortly have to take strategic decisions on how to prioritise these programmes of work.

“The results of this work will be presented to members as part of the ongoing budget-setting process for 2024/25 to ensure that decisions taken regarding the prioritisation of proposed programmes of capital spend are fully informed,” the report concludes.

Last year the the Scottish Women’s Football organisation showed its support for a new pitch at the Clickimin.

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