Friday, July 1, 2022

Barry Middleton’s mum campaigns to save Welsh hockey club from 3G

The threat of 3G has reared its head again as The Hockey Paper hears of a club and school in West Wales earmarked for conversion from a hockey suitable surface. Proposals are currently meeting stiff resistance from campaigners. 

Sheila Middleton has over 60 years of involvement as a hockey player, coach, administrator, umpire and supporter of club and country. She was involved in creating and running a junior section and building an astroturf facility at Doncaster HC, South Yorkshire.  

These were vital factors in her son, Barry, being able to develop to international standard, captaining GB Hockey and becoming its most capped players in world hockey.

“I am passionate about the game and its beneficial effect on young people and adults and the community in which they live,” she says.

Which is why she is now campaigning – alongside a petition launched by the club – to save a 3G pitch in Wales, having written in March to Hockey Wales, Sport Wales and Ceredigion County Council in support of Clwb Hoci Emlyn and the school who use the pitch, with both fighting the proposal.

Sheila’s letter to CEOs and chief executives 

In March, I travelled to Ystrad Mynach to umpire a hockey match Sue Noakes Ladies v Newcastle Emlyn Ladies on a blue, newly laid astroturf pitch. It was an excellent game which Emlyn deservedly won 3 -1 making them favourites for yet another promotion, to Division 1 – the 3rd tier of South Wales Women’s Hockey League.  

But as the situation is at present, the club may not exist next season, going the way of Bow Street (Aberystwyth) recently. Their last match could be defending their title in the Hockey Wales Trophy Cup Final [the team lost to Penarth earlier this month].

Hockey Wales, Sport Wales and Ceredigion County Council have jointly, without consultation, decided to replace the Cardigan Leisure Centre pitch at Cardigan Secondary School with a 3G pitch surface, unsuitable for hockey. 

The pitch is used by the school and Newcastle Emlyn Ladies are based there.  The money is coming from a Sport Wales grant. The plan to deprive south Ceredigion of a hockey facility, following the removal of a hockey facility in north Ceredigion, leaves the county with just a substandard facility in Lampeter and an Astroturf pitch at Llandysul in the east, used by Ysgol Bro Teifi, Llandysul Ladies and Aberystwyth University (over 30 miles travel, no public transport).  Only one secondary school in Ceredigion has a good quality astroturf facility local to it.

The response, by the decision makers, to the concerns of the club and school, has been impractical and unacceptable suggestions. Their stated aim, “to prioritise north Ceredigion” is astounding as the once thriving club operating there was recently devastated because of the pitch at Aberystwyth University being converted to 3G, and there is no other alternative.  

How spending this money unwisely helps the situation in Aberystwyth is incomprehensible. The money being spent would cover the cost of upgrading and keeping a hockey facility.

Of the Emlyn team playing today, two thirds started playing hockey at the club. There were two juniors starring in their ranks, one already identified as a potential national player. Two players had progressed from juniors to seniors whilst at school, gone away to university and returned to continue with the club.

In the past 10 years the club has developed a thriving junior section, which now includes boys, and their plan is to have a men’s team playing league hockey within five years, whereas men’s hockey did not exist in the county five years ago. The standard of hockey is infinitely better than it was 10 years ago through volunteer coaching and organization.

I am more than happy to umpire for them because of the work they do for the sport, expanding the player base in Wales, as well as improving standards. 

How can Hockey Wales be complicit in this decision?  Hockey Wales should hang its head in shame if it comes to pass.  There must be an immediate review and an embargo put on construction of a 3G pitch in Cardigan.  Yes! The pitch is in need of an upgrade – to a better hockey playing surface.

If your hockey club is threatened by a lack of provision or closure due to council decisions, please get in touch with us so we can raise your concern.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The complicity of bodies such as Sport Wales in destroying hockey clubs is shameful. No pitch used for hockey should ever be converted to 3G. There are thousands of rubbish grass pitches which would benefit enormously from going to 3G, they should concentrate on that and leave hockey pitches alone.

  2. I can’t understand why Hockey Wales would support this. Either their view is being misrepresented, or there are some other facts missing from this narrative. I’d love to hear their view directly.

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