Portrush FC Youths have said ‘enough is enough’ after the children were left devastated when yet another training session was suspended until further notice.
Demoralised coaches were left with no alternative as their Parker Avenue pitch was left unplayable with some describing it as being ‘like a swamp’.
Club Chairman Jason Quigley said: “We face the same issue every winter and nothing is ever done about it and we are paying for the privilege of playing on this.
“As if the playing surface isn’t bad enough, every night before training we have to go around and clean up the dog foul and broken glass because people use the area we train on as a walkway.
“Everyone from the coaches to the parents and kids are frustrated and demoralised and we have had enough.
“I have been contacting the council and councillors about this since I started in 2009 and yet nothing is ever done.
“It’s a disgrace. You go into the likes of Ballybogey and Bushmills and they have facilities for all weather and they can play all year round.
“We have 180 kids eager to play and yet we go through this every year and the pitch cuts up. It can’t take the weather and can’t take the elements.”
Portrush FC Youths would like to see a 3G or 4G pitch installed enabling the youngsters to play in all conditions.
Mr Quigley said: “Let’s move with the times. We are happy to try funding, we know council don’t have the money to pay for it all but even if they say we are willing to pay a percentage towards it but unfortunately we aren’t getting anything from them.
“There’s a chance some of those kids won’t come back. They are trying to run through the muck and there’s tears because they were falling in the mud then they were soaking wet and freezing cold. These are six and seven-year olds, it would be different if they were on a 3G pitch that wouldn’t be an issue and it’s a far better environment.
“It’s demoralising for us as coaches to go down there and try and get kids to kick a ball through a mud bath.”
Addressing his comments to the councillors who represent the Causeway DEA, the club Chairman added: “Please come down and take a look at it for yourselves and see what we deal with on a daily basis. Speak to the coaches, the parents and children.
“These kids are speaking to their friends who are saying I was training at Coleraine on the 3G or at The Showgrounds but we don’t have that luxury, we can’t even get a slot up there to hold a training session.
“We don’t really want to take the kids out of Portrush and not everybody has a car and then we have to take into account the additional cost of travel for parents.
“It is so frustrating that from 2009 when I started to 2022 we are still struggling with the same issue. We have kids coming from all over, from Bushmills and Portstewart as well as Portrush and people have had enough. Would you want your kids playing in conditions like this? I doubt it.”
The DUP Causeway DEA councillors spoke of their commitment to help Portrush FC Youths adding that a meeting has been arranged with the club and council officials within the coming days which is the next stage of an ongoing process.
Councillor Mark Fielding said: “I have been working with the club on various issues since 2011 and will continue assist them now and in the future.
“It is quite obvious that there is issues to resolve with the current facilities in order to ensure that they are of a standard that meets the needs of the club and local people.”
Fellow Causeway DUP Councillor John McAuley added: “Following contact this morning from Portrush FC Youth regards the condition of their facilities, I have had discussions with the club and council officers with a view to achieving short, medium and long term improvements.
“I have been involved in local football now for nearly 20 years so I am well aware that winter training has and continues to cause many clubs a problem.
“The good news is resolutions are possible and have been achieved in other areas of the borough in the past.
“I am committed to giving Portrush FC Youths support to get the same outcomes for their facilities.
East Londonderry MLA Maurice Bradley said: “I was in talks two years ago with council officers on behalf of the Coleraine and District League as part of the council’s consultation process into the borough’s pitch strategy.
“As part of an overall strategy it was recognised that there was a lack of 3G facilities in the borough and Parker Avenue was in the mix along with other sites.
“I would be happy to meet with Portrush Football Club and Portrush Youths at any time to discuss facilities.
“I have been having meetings with council officers with the hope of having roll-on, roll-off goals at Parker Avenue and other grounds.
“I believe that facilities are important, facilities allow clubs to grow and sports enthusiasts to improve.
“But, in the short term, I would encourage members of Portrush Youths to lobby their local councillors.
“Having been involved for many years in football and campaigning for better football facilities right across the old Coleraine Borough Council area, I support improving facilities for Portrush Youths and also for all clubs across the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council area.”
Meanwhile, SDLP MLA Cara Hunter posted on the club’s social media that she would ‘be writing to the Department for Communities and Sport NI to identify if there are any funds to resolve this ongoing issue.’
When contacted, a spokesperson for Causeway Coast & Glens Council said: “The club’s designated training pitch was passed fit for purpose at the beginning of this week.
“Council officers will visit the site today to assess the ground conditions and, in the interim, will engage with the club to offer an alternate venue.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted other councillors, however, they had not responded at time of going to press.