We bring you a round-up of the third leg of our tour of some of the countries worst football facilities.
Rubbish. Awful. Shocking. Just some of the words used to describe the facilities on Clapham Common by Sunday League footballers playing there on a fine spring morning.
Since finding out that half of amateur footballers have to put up with substandard facilities, Club Website have been on the road around the country to get the lowdown on some of the worst and raise awareness of this big issue in the grassroots game.
After visits to the Midlands and the North, our third leg saw us head south to London’s Clapham Common – suggested to us by Club Website users – where we arrived with mic in hand to get the view of players from the local Sunday Leagues.
On a lovely sunny morning we found the pitches in fairly good condition compared to many we’ve seen but the facilities didn’t seem up to much – a view confirmed by those players keen to leave them and get out on the pitch.
Miles Otway of Brixton Town FC has been playing football at the Common for four years. He told us that “these aren’t changing facilities really. There’s no electricity, no heat, no running water really. The showers don’t work and even if they do work, they only produce muddy, cold water so noone really wants to use them.”
Mary Guest of KIKK United FC said: “The facilities here are awful, horrible. I don’t think there’s proper loos or showers.
“There’s no lights in the changing rooms, they are cold and dark so they’re not nice to get changed in. There are no locks or anything like that so you have to take all your stuff out with you.”
Roy Isaacs has been playing or refereeing football in South London for over 20 years so has obviously seen a lot of facilities. Now a referee in the Southern Sunday League, he told us that Clapham Common had “the worst facilities in south London, and I’ve been to hundreds of football grounds.”
“They are rubbish. The only saving grace is it’s not raining. Imagine if it was pouring down with rain now, your stuff would get soaked. I came here 20 years ago and nothing’s changed. If it was 1990 right now we’d be having the same conversation and that’s the truth.”
Tom Valentine of Westminster Wanderers lives in South London but comes from Australia, so we had to ask him how the changing rooms shaped up to those back home.
“Well I’ll be polite and say not as well,” he replied. “They are not the best frankly. Compared to some of the others around here they are pretty ordinary.”
Those last two words will be familiar to any cricket fan out there from many a Ricky Ponting interview, and you’ll know that “pretty ordinary” is Australian for “rubbish”!
Now the majority of facilities available to amateur sports clubs in Australia are are provided by local government, just as is the case in this country, yet the public facilities down under are reportedly far nicer than those we have to play with over here.
So why are the vast majority of the facilities that have been brought to our attention in the last few months council-run facilities? And why are so many council facilities like those at Clapham Common not up to scratch?
Our tour has taken us to Birmingham, up to Yorkshire and now to London and it’s been a similar story all over. Whilst there has been millions of pounds worth of investment in the grassroots game over the last decade, there are still far too many places where that money hasn’t had chance to touch. It feels as though things are going to be grim for many for some time to come.
End of season update: what’s the latest in South London?
Not a lot has changed since Club Website’s visit to Clapham, though that’s hardly surprising considering the short time that has elapsed since we were there and the glacial pace at which councils tend to act on such matters.
We’ve enquired with Lambeth Council as to what – if any – plans are in place for the facilities on the Common, but we’re yet to hear back from them with an official reply.
Of course, we’ll keep you updated as and when we hear anything from them… and fingers crossed it will be good news for the footballers of Clapham.
Just forgive us if we don’t hold our breath!