We bring you a round-up of the second leg of our Club Website facilities tour.
After kicking off our tour with an eye-opening trip to Birmingham in December, we head a bit further north on the second leg to check out some of the facilities we’d heard about in South Yorkshire.
Our first port of call on a bright Saturday morning was Birdwell Recreation Ground near Barnsley, where one football pitch and a small changing room facility are used by four teams over the course of alternate weekends.
The first thing to strike you about the building is the graffiti that covers two of the exterior walls, but it turns out this is just about the best thing about the building. It certainly helps distract attention from all of the boarded up windows and side door.
The inside is even worse. “The lights don’t work, there’s no power to the building and there’s bags of rubbish everywhere,” Dave Capp of The Acorn FC – one of the teams to use the venue – warns us as our guided tour begins.
“The toilets are in very poor condition and there’s no door so there’s no privacy. An electric heater is the only source of heat in the whole building but that’s obviously no use if there’s no power on!”
As Dave observes, the decoration in the building is “very poor”, although we notice that it has improved somewhat since he first sent in photos of the building.
“Some local teams have tried to tickle it up a bit” he explains, “but they have to do it in their own time.”
Dave is also worried about the risk of asbestos in the building and legionella in the water tank, with concerns that Barnsley Council have not carried a formal risk assessment of either danger.
To be fair, the pitch at Birdwell Rec is decent – “one of the best in the area” according to one of the locals – so it seems even more of a shame that the building is in such a state of disrepair.
Each of the four teams who play at the Rec pay Barnsley Council just under £500 a year for the privilege, so they are left to wonder what exactly happens to this cash.
It could be worse for The Acorn FC though, as we soon found out. Their away game that afternoon was against Rawmarsh Earl Grey in Rotherham, a side who had recently left their council-owned facilities because they felt they paying over the odds.
They decided to re-locate to Silverwood Miners Welfare Club, where we caught up with Dave and The Acorn lads later on to watch the end of a scrappy 2-2 draw.
As we like to do on the Club Website tour, we gave the watching spectators a hot drink to cheer them up on a cold day, but if we’d known what awaited them back at the changing rooms, we’d have made sure the drinks contained something a bit stronger!
The changing rooms were in a shocking state. Many of the ceilings had caved in leaving rubble all over the floor and it looked like the place hadn’t been cleaned all season. The walls, floors, toilets, sink and solitary shower were all filthy.
It comes to something when the players of a team based at Birdwell Rec are wishing they were in their home dressing room!
But as we headed back to The Acorn for a couple of drinks with the football team, that was the sad reflection on the facilities we’d looked at.
Another eye opening experience on the Club Website facilities tour, but yet more weight to the campaign to get something done about this important issue.
For a more comprehensive round up of our trip to Yorkshire – including the thoughts of a local league secretary and an unexpected visit from an ex-Premier League footballer – check out the February edition of The Club House, Club Website’s monthly newsletter.
End of season update: what’s the latest in South Yorkshire?
Things have looked up for Dave Capp and the lads of The Acorn FC since Club Website paid them a visit in February. Not only have the club gained promotion to the Wragg Football League Premier Division, but they’ve also been pleased to see some overdue renovation work on the facilities at Birdwell Rec.
We’ve not had much luck getting through to the right people at Barnsley Council to find out all the details of what’s been done, but Dave informs us that they’ve got power back to the building and have mended the roof, so things are definitely moving in the right direction. We’ll keep you updated if we hear anything from the council.