Synthetic pitches proposed for inner west sports grounds

13 March 2018

SPORTING grounds across the inner west could be converted to synthetic fields to meet soaring demand for available playing space from local clubs.

Rising participation in sport, coupled with the chronic shortage of existing facilities, has placed renewed pressure on inner city councils to increase the availability of sporting grounds for local clubs.

Frustrations have been highlighted by the Balmain District Football Club’s decision to cancel its pre-season training after scrambling to find a ground for its weekly sessions.

Club president Terry Wilkinson said until last month, Inner West Council had allocated the club one field for two hours per week to train 140 players.

“We have nine teams from juniors right up to players in the Premier League so to be allocated one pitch for a couple of hours a week is totally inadequate,” he said.

“We’re having to split teams on to quarter pitches which can impact performance and in the past we’ve even had to go outside the inner west to run trials because there’s been nowhere locally available.

“Yes, there is a shortage of fields but our concern is that there’s not a clear policy or transparency around the council’s allocation process.

“We need a genuine forum with all the clubs sitting down together to come up with a clear solution.”

Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne said measures the council were considering included converting some existing fields to synthetic pitches, which could sustain 60 hours of use per week compared with the 20 hours of high quality grass surfaces.

A community forum has also been planned for April to discuss the council’s draft sporting field allocations policy.

Currently, clubs have to apply for summer and winter allocations which do not always align with sporting seasons. This includes football, which Mr Wilkinson said last year continued one month after the winter allocation expired — leaving squads in grand final contention without a ground to train on.