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Cove Youth "Devastated" as Travellers Set Up Camp on Pitch

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(Picture by Kath Flannery)
Cove Youth youngsters were left "devastated" as their plans to return to training were scuppered after travellers set up camp on their pitch.
The Aberdeenshire side were due to go ahead with their first training sessions since lockdown began, but just an hour before they were due to start, vans, caravans and cars began to set up on the grass.
Horses were also brought onto the park, and have begun grazing on the grass pitches, chewing up the grass and using the field as a toilet.

Cove Youth FC Vice-Chairman Mark Robb said: “It was quarter to five when this happened, and the first ones were on at six o’clock.

“All of a sudden you just see caravans and vans coming up the business park pavement and onto the grass. That was a bit of a blow.

“I drove my car down to the pitch to make sure they weren’t on it, but sure enough, they’d already unloaded their horses and their horses were on the pitch.”

He added: “The pitch was looking good, we’ve done a lot of work over the last three months on it to try and get it back to a better playing surface.

“But the horses have been down the top end of the pitch.

“They’re doing the toilet all over the pitch, and they’re eating the grass, chewing it up and walking about.

“Slightly later in the evening, there were kids on quad bikes tearing about the campsite and tearing across the pitch, so that’s going to tear up the pitch as well. It’s a bit gutting to be honest.”

“The boys are devastated. Depending how much damage that’s going to do to the pitch, it might not be able to be used until next year, by the time you get things repaired and done properly.

“We don’t want to put the kids on it if it’s a danger to them. It’s going to implicate a lot of costs for the club as well.”

Goals Aberdeen, a five-a-side complex in the city, has offered to host the team in the meantime at a discounted rate.

Currently, there is only one official Gypsy/Traveller site in the Aberdeen area, with space for 17 permanent pitches and four short term pitches.

The site, at Clinterty near the border with Aberdeenshire, has a waiting list.

Councillor Alex Nicoll, whose ward contains Aberdeen Gateway, said: “Clearly, the council need to address the problem of where to have for a Traveller site, because the present arrangements are simply not satisfactory.

“There are insufficient pitches, as we know, and there is insufficient availability, and as long as that situation continues, we are going to continue to have the problem of Travellers using unauthorised pieces of land and causing problems for local groups that wish to use those areas.

“It really is something we need to resolve, and the sooner we manage to do that the better.

“The present situation is simply untenable.”

Scottish Conservative north-east MSP Liam Kerr, who has been contacted by Cove Youth over the situation, said: “I’m shocked and appalled to see this occur at Cove Gateway which is a fantastic facility used by a number of football teams in the area.

“For months, the players have been waiting patiently for the chance to play football with each other again and to have this taken away from them is shameful.

“This situation is extremely disappointing for everyone at a time when it’s vital we encourage youngsters to get back outdoors and play sport as lockdown eases."

Currently, there is no indication of any dialogue taking place between the club and the Traveller community.

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