Mention Lennoxtown to the average Scottish football enthusiast and most will think of the swish state of the art training facility there owned by Scottish Champions, Celtic. The highly paid players who train at the facility are lucky indeed for not only do they have first class training facilities; their complex sits at the foot of the picturesque Campsie Fells to the north of Glasgow. Lennoxtown though is more than just the home of a professional football side’s training complex, it is a growing community of around 4000 people and many of the youngsters growing up there are football mad.
There are currently around 200 children and young people attached to the local Campsie Football Club. These range from children of Primary one age through to those playing at Under 21 level. There are also senior amateur teams playing in the area and all of these footballers have to compete for the use of three worn and overplayed grass pitches. The lack of decent changing facilities and the poor state of the playing surface of the pitches is a great hindrance to developing the players of the future in the Lennoxtown area. The winter rain coupled with poor drainage and maintenance of the pitches leads to many fixture cancellations which in turn causes a backlog of fixtures. As the weather improves teams naturally want to take advantage of the lighter nights to play their games and the pitches are totally overplayed. This vicious circle suits no one.
As well as encouraging local youth clubs which foster involvement in the game at all levels, developing and supporting grassroots football is an important part of the SFA’s strategy to rejuvenise the game in Scotland. Participation at grass roots level is vital to help produce more quality footballers and give youngsters the experience of participating in sport at an important time in their lives. It also helps the rising generation of young Scots forge healthier lifestyles for themselves at a time when childhood obesity is at record levels. The Scottish Football Association has long championed the development of modern and appropriate facilities where grass roots footballers can hone their skills and fitness levels. Indeed the game’s governing body could have had Lennoxtown in mind when it pointed out in their recent publication ‘The Big Pitch,’ that, ‘A significant percentage of existing changing pavilions are in poor condition, with many of them also too small for today’s larger playing squads and the increase in participation. They are also very often isolated and so, unfortunately, vandalised. Climate change is also a crucial factor with Scotland experiencing warmer but wetter winters and more ‘extreme weather events’. Unfortunately this means grass pitches are unplayable more often and for longer.’
It seems obvious that the high levels of participation in football in Lennoxtown mean that the town is deserving of a modern, all weather football facility. There are currently 12 teams ranging from infants to under-21s playing in the town and competing for time and space to play. A modern, purpose built facility would greatly ease the problem of cancelled games and give all the teams in the local area the standard of playing facility which would benefit everyone. Indeed such a facility would be an asset to the wider local community as schools, clubs and other groups could use the facility for a variety of sporting activities. There are 2 schools in the local area which could also benefit from the addition of a 3G pitch.
East Dunbartonshire Council are currently refusing to acknowledge the problem, citing all weather facilities in Bishopbriggs and Kirkintilloch as possible venues for Lennoxtown sides to use. However, these facilities are often booked out by local sides from the two towns concerned and the problem of accessing them is compounded by travel issues for teams from Lennoxtown.
In the face of the Council’s intransigence a local man started a petition to ask the East Dunbartonshire Council to reconsider their decision. More than 600 people signed the petition in its first few days and the comments they leave about the value good facilities bring to a community are very convincing. Coaches write of the difficulty finding a decent pitch to play on, especially in winter. Parents write of the frustration their children feel at cancelled games and inadequate facilities. Some are concerned their children could be lost to the game if this situation continues.
The ball is firmly in East Dunbartonshire Council’s court; will they play ball or turn their backs on Lennoxtown’s deserving generation of young players. Only the future will answer that question but the Council themselves are committed to supporting the recreation, health and fitness of the population they administer and will surely see the wisdom of giving Lennoxtown the sort of all-weather facility the town and its aspiring footballers deserve?