Kevin Francis, Centre

Carmarthen Town AFC have just been allocated £150k from Carmarthenshire County Council towards their plans for a 3G pitch at the club. The decision has left representatives of sports clubs in Llanelli scratching their heads in disbelief as their pitches remain in what they say is a ‘shocking condition’ whereby they struggle to meet the costs of maintenance and pitch fees.

Kevin Francis is the chairman of Burry port AFC. He contacted Llanelli Online to set out his case for why his club and neighbouring clubs should get the same level of support from the County Council. He said:

Having lost so many sporting clubs in the Llanelli area due to the Plaid Cymru led County Council’s continued asset transfer and pitch fee policy, this seems like the perfect time to highlight the funding disparity between grassroots and elite sport in Carmarthenshire. Burry Port Memorial Park is an essential facility. It benefits the community by helping and supporting people young and old, to reach their full potential. We hear so much these days about new community projects. This park has been a thriving community project for decades. It is vital that key partnerships work together to secure its future. The drainage issue on the pitches must be sorted if the area is to have a sustainable future.

He continued:

Burry Port AFC and the Rugby Club, Burry Port RFC have always been recognised locally as great community clubs, keen to get involved in helping the wider community. Our focus has always been much more than just our ground at the Memorial Park. We have previously asset transferred Woodbrook Lane to secure its use for the young sports people of Burry Port. We have recently rebuilt the changing rooms and added a kitchen. This was only made possible by the work of unpaid volunteers. It’s vital that politicians work together quickly to find a solution to securing the future of the park for the same reasons. We have 12 junior teams running at the moment and we need both pitches to ensure all age groups have spaces to play and train.

Speaking about the work of volunteers at Burry port he said:

Our clubs activities have always included a community programme with particular emphasis on the socially and economically challenged areas of Burry Port. Where we can help these socially and economically challenged areas, we have been able to provide use of the pitches on the park by covering the full maintenance costs, for their benefit. Engaging with the community in Burry Port has always been a key issue for us. CCC have neglected the maintenance issues at the park and expect the Town Council to move forward with an Asset Transfer that is without doubt a liability.

Kevin would like to see a level playing field for grass roots sport in Carmarthenshire. He said:

A capital investment is required at Burry Port Memorial Park by CCC but instead they are investing 150k into a 3G Pitch for Carmarthen Town AFC, a semi professional club that has paid players. This investment combined with 500k for a closed circuit cycling track which CCC are then giving to Welsh Cycling and 275k for the refurbishment of the Velodrome in Carmarthen means £925k of public money has been spent on 3 facilities whilst true Grass Roots Sports have been marginalised.

He is calling for an enquiry into the allocation of grantsCCC receive from Sports Wales. He said:

There should be an enquiry from the Assembly to investigate how CCC has invested the annual grant it receives from Sport Wales. The only outdoor sporting facilities left in their portfolio are Burry Port Memorial Park and the Bowling Green at Parc Howard. Users of these areas have to pay their full maintenance costs.

Kevin continued:

Areas that have asset transferred their sporting facilities have seen massive rises in their local precepts. CCC called for a level playing field at the start of this policy but the irony is that sporting clubs who hire their facilities are on the brink of financial ruin in a time of great uncertainty. Whilst it is admirable that sport in Carmarthenshire is getting help from the council albeit in Carmarthen at a semi professional club, the same cannot be said for Llanelli where grass roots sport is on its last legs save for the voluntary work of so many people who also put their hands into their own pockets because of a complete lack of investment from the council. The logic and reasoning for allocating £150k to Carmarthen town for a 3G pitch is no less than a massive slap in the face for grass roots sport  in Llanelli.

Carmarthenshire County Council have approved the grant of £150k. In the notes of their Executive Board Meeting on the 13th March they state:

It is recommended that the Executive Board considers supporting the implementation of a 3G pitch at Richmond Park, part of a community project by approving a grant of £150k.

The reasons for allocating the money were:

Richmond Park is situated in one of the more socially and economically challenged areas of Carmarthen and the new 3G pitch, part of a community project would see a great number of local groups and organisations benefiting, being able to provide improved facilities for both children and adults, including those with disabilities.

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