Furious Derby football teams 'can't use home pitch' after city council cost-cutting

This post first appeared on Derby Telegraph. Read the original article.

Sports fans have been left “outraged” after an artificial grass pitch at a Derby park was replaced with Tarmac in a cost-cutting move by Derby City Council.

A floodlit AstroTurf court at Normanton Park has been replaced by the council with a hard surface which players say is now “dangerous” and unsuitable for sport.

Saleem Hussain has been playing football at the park every Sunday for the last 20 years with his friends, who call themselves Sun United FC.

However, the group can no longer use the site due to the new surface which he says has “messed up our lives”.

Sun United FC are angry after an AstroTurf pitch at Normanton Park was replaced with tarmac

Sun United FC are angry after an AstroTurf pitch at Normanton Park was replaced with tarmac

The 47-year-old taxi driver said: “We’ve been playing at Normanton Park for 20 years and, for the last seven, we have been repairing the AstroTurf and keeping the park clean.

“The AstroTurf started to become worn and a little dangerous so we asked the council if they could repair it or replace it for us.

“The council has now laid Tarmac and concrete which has made it dangerous.

“We’ve been in regular contact with the council to make our feelings clear and we’ve been told to use Arboretum Park instead.

“It’s a real shame because there’s floodlights here and it’s a really good location for football. Some people also travel from Burton and other locations so it makes it more difficult for them as it's that bit further.”

A football pitch at Normanton Park has been covered in tarmac

The football pitch at Normanton Park has been covered in Tarmac

The group plans to launch a petition urging the council to return the artificial pitch which is believed to cost in the region of £28,000.

Team mate Liaquat Ali added: “We are a reflection of Derby’s multicultural make-up, ranging in age from those of us now in our 50s and 60s down to teenage recruits.

“In an age of cutbacks, we’ve played our part in looking after the AstroTurf court, collecting and disposing of litter, and generally contributing to making Normanton Park an enjoyable and safe place.

“The AstroTurf court has been our home ground. Yes, there are other courts, but what made this so special was its relatively large size, enabling more people to play games of even up to nine-a-side.

“But, to our disgust, a week or so ago they tore up the AstroTurf carpet. We were outraged by what seems little more than institutional vandalism and the responses we’ve had from Derby City Council have hardly placated or reassured us.”

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He added: “We want Derby City Council to acknowledge that they have acted hastily and unreasonably and that they have written off a sporting and recreational resource which is important to the health and wellbeing of users of Normanton Park and Derby more generally, without offering a viable replacement.”

Sajj Akran, club secretary of Normanton Allstars FC, said 60 boys and 30 girls regularly use the pitch. He said: "They've got nowhere to go now and playing football is what keeps them off the streets."

A spokesman for Derby City Council said: "The court concerned had a torn synthetic carpet surface which was over 15 years old, at the end of its useful life and beyond repair.

“Use of the court had decreased in recent years, with there being no paid bookings for some time. The torn carpet has now been removed for safety reasons.

“There are no funds available at the current time for the provision of new carpet-type surface. The underlying Tarmac surface has been found to be in good condition and the intention is that this will be marked out so it can be used as a kick-about area.

“There are two synthetic carpet-type courts available for public use nearby at Derby Arboretum and also an excellent artificial turf pitch at the Racecourse. These provide alternative facilities for those who wish to play on a synthetic surface.”