Penicuik Athletic boss makes plea for pitch

Tuesday March 19th 2019

Tony Begg and Louise Shepherd

Tony Begg, Penicuik Athletic and the youth club’s development officer Louise Shepherd

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

An investment of just 24 pence a day is all that is being asked to support the health and fitness of children in Penicuik, a football chief has told councillors.

Tony Begg, manager of Penicuik Athletic, was speaking as he backed the club’s youth movement’s demands for their pitch to be recarpeted at a cost of £250,000.

The campaign to have the pitch, used by Penicuik Athletic Youth Club, resurfaced has already drawn support from Scotland international Claire Emslie, who grew up playing there, local politicians, Police Scotland and the town’s medical centre.

Mr Begg revealed that the adult teams at the club no longer played on what had been their training grounds because they had “lost confidence” in the surface.

They now travel to Peffermill in Edinburgh to train before their weekly matches.

And he warned the youth teams, who still currently use it, would also have to move further afield or see their numbers fall unless urgent actions is taken.

He told a meeting of Midlothian Council’s petitions committee “the pitch is done”.

Mr Begg urged councillors to find the money to recarpet the surface pointing out that a recentUEFA report had estimated grassroots football investment in Scotland brought a return of £1.25billion to society and over £762million in health benefits.

He said: “There are 350 players under the age of 18 from our town. A £250,000 investment over eight years is £89 per year for each of these children and equates to 24 pence a day.

“I am asking if you are prepared to invest 24p per day in the children of Penicuik to keep them healthy and active.”

And he pointed out that current charges for using the pitch, which are about gto increase, brought in an annual revenue of £33,000 so the investment would “wash its face”.

A petition calling on the local authority to resurface the pitch, which is 12 years old, was launched by Penicuik Athletics Youth Club (PAYC) club development officer Louise Shepherd.

At the meeting yesterday councillors were told it had received nearly 600 signatures on line and 88 on paper.

Among those backing the petition is Scotland international Claire Emslie, who grew up playing on the pitch, which is across from Penicuik High School.

The council’s own facilities manager Garry Sheret confirmed the pitch needed to be resurfaced.

He said: “It is compressed to the point that it is hard and some areas are bare of turf.”

The committee agreed to pass the petition to its director of resources to look at funding again and report back to council before it breaks for recess in June.

They also said it would be included in next year’s capital budget as a proposal.

Following the meeting Mr Begg said: “It is encouraging that the councillors recognise the value football has to the wider community and that they are going to inlcude it in the budget for next year.

“It is all about keeping the pressure on.”

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