Meeting with the Directors – Part 2

The second installment of the minutes from our meeting with the Board from Monday 22nd January. This segment contains the questions regarding the Spotland pitch.

A large number of questions were received from members with regards to the issues with the pitch and the circumstances that led to the postponement of Saturday’s game with Southend United.

The Board admitted that nobody on the board was an expert on pitches and as such, any decisions that are taken with regards to the Spotland is done only after seeking advice from experts. They said that they continually seek professional advice before any decisions with the pitch are made as the Spotland pitch suffers more rainfall than the vast majority of pitches.

They gave details of the problems with the pitch. In July 2016, there was an issue with the instalment of a fibresand pitch, due to a wrong mix. This ultimately led to the problems experienced in 2016-17. The club felt that there was no option but to replace the pitch following the Oxford, Huddersfield and Bristol Rovers matches as the pitch was deemed to be unsafe.

The pitch was replaced at great expense, with the club having no alternative but to go for a Turf based pitch rather than a Fibresand pitch. This was down to the time of the year when the replacement was installed as a fibresand pitch would not grow in February and could possibly lead to further problems as a result.

A turf based pitch will suffer more from the elements than a fibre sand pitch and this has been evident since the problems first started to appear in December, the club have continually acted on the advice given to them, with meetings taking place as recent as the day that the Trust met the board. There is a programme in place for the pitch which acts in the short / medium / long term.

The short term plan will not provide a pitch that is particularly suited to the needs of the management but it is essential that it allows games to take place. The club said that underneath the pitch, the drains themselves are actually fine. All of the issues relate to the surface turf holding water. They said that they continue to be in talks with a number of companies in an effort to get the pitch playable.

In the longer term, the pitch will be getting a full renovation in the Summer. A company has been booked to install a Fibresand pitch, with this company responsible for pitches at Wembley and Twickenham. Russ Green said that he has been in close contact with Hornets over this, and an unprecedented seven week period has been agreed to allow the work to take place and he thanked Hornets for their cooperation in allowing this to happen, as in the past, it’s been a five week period for pitch renovation.

Concerns were raised from questions from the Trust about the lack of pitch inspection preceding Saturday’s game and the impact that this had on supporters based in Rochdale and those travelling from further afield, including Southend.

The board stated that the referee first looked at the pitch at around 10:45am, at which point he deemed the pitch to be between 85-90% playable, stating that “We’ll give it a chance”.  Following this point, more rain and snow fell on to the pitch but due to the high water table, it just remained on the surface leading to the postponement.

It was remarked that Rochdale Golf Club had remained open on Saturday whilst we suffered the postponement, but it was stated that the difference between the two was that the golf club was clay based, easing the drainage, coupled with drainage work that has taken place.

The board admitted that all aspects regarding the pitch are always being looked at, and when it was queried about the frost covers being put on following the Blackpool game, it was said that it was impossible to even get on the pitch after the game as it resembled “the Battle of the Somme” such was its condition. The preceding day and the day itself saw large amounts of rainfall, and they feared during the Blackpool game that the referee would abandon the game. Professional advice was again followed and underpinned any action that was taken.

In terms of those travelling to the game, the club provided free food to a number of supporters who had travelled over. Indeed, one set of sponsors (Jempumps) felt they were looked after so well at the club that as a result they had booked two further matchday sponsorship packages for later in the season.

The board stated that they received compliments from the Southend staff for the way that they were kept informed by the club throughout the whole process, and from the Southend media team who were looked after upon their arrival.

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