Poor, overused and dated facilities limit football participation in March, report finds

POOR facilities mean football participation levels in March are significantly lower than in the rest of the country, a report has found.

A review commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridgeshire Football Association has revealed that 2.8 per cent of March’s population play football within the town’s clubs.

The report says: “Football participation levels in March are low, operating at only 54% of the level seen in the rest of Fenland.

“This suggests that 46 per cent of people in March who want to play football are not doing so. This could have an adverse impact upon the health and wellbeing of the community.”

It continues: “Research with local people, clubs and organisations suggests the main factors influencing this situation are the lack of sport and football facilities and the general poor quality of some of the facilities that are available.”

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There are 17 clubs from the March area which are affiliated to Cambs FA, with 18 senior teams, 21 youth teams and nine mini-soccer sides.

Since the 2010/11 season most clubs have managed to sustain their teams but three clubs lost sides due to “a lack of facilities”.

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Football clubs in the area use 16 different grounds for their fixtures and training - but the report says more will be needed to cope with an increasing population.

It also revealed that many of the current facilities are not fit for purpose with Estover Playing Fields highlighted as an “area of concern”.

The condition of the fields, which are leased by the Estover Playing Field Association from the county council, has suffered due to vandalism and limited finances.

The report said the pitches were “suffering from overuse and lack of maintenance” and the portacabins used for changing were “not ideal” and “very dated”.

“The second portacabin has been condemned and is often vandalised and set on fire,” it said.

“The cost and confusion over ownership of this portacabin prevents its removal from the site. If funding was available EPFA would have this removed from the site but it cannot afford to do so at present.”

The report claimed the best facilities were available at March Town Cricket Club and Parkfield Sports Club in Wimblington - but there was an overlap between the cricket and football seasons at these sites.

It concluded that March will need more football pitches to cope with an increasing population and claimed existing facilities could be improved with “smaller levels of investment”.

The report said the North East March Growth Area, which includes Estover Playing Fields, would be an “ideal location to create a sporting hub for the community”.

It said: “It is important that clubs continue to aspire to improve facilities in March, influencing those with the power to create change.

“Acceptance of below standard facilities will only drive down participation and adversely influence the health and wellbeing of the community.”

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