THE new pitch at the Ballymena Showgrounds continues to attract controversy.
The Showgrounds survived a pitch inspection to host Ballymena United’s win over Ards in the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday.
However, the pitch is now the subject of debate ahead of next month’s County Antrim Shield final with calls for a venue change.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council spent more than £200,000 on relaying the pitch last summer.
However, recent games had to be rearranged, and there was doubt as to if the Ballymena v Ards game could proceed after a pitch inspection on Saturday morning.
That led to former Glentoran boss Scott Young call for the Shield final, due to be played at the Showgrounds between Crusaders and Linfield on Tuesday, February 5, to be moved.
Young was speaking on BBC Sport.
Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey, speaking to the BBC after his side’s win on Saturday, admitted there was an issue to be addressed.
“I am no expert when it comes to pitches, horticulture or anything of that nature,” he said.
“I do know that there was a big investment made by the council and unfortunately, something doesn’t seem to be right. There’s no point trying to dress it up.
“I am sure council will be looking at the difficulties that are being experienced. You’ve got to say, this is a fantastic stadium. It’s a superb arena and the facilities are first class but the jewel in the crown has got to be the pitch.
“It was a substantial investment – a quarter of a million – but when you get a phone call this morning at 11am saying the pitch is the state that it’s in, it was a similar state in the County Antrim Shield when we were due to play Linfield. That had to be rescheduled – the same as the day we were due to play Institute.
“I’m honestly not sure. There’s obviously something with the drainage but I trust that council will be doing all that they can to right what is not working properly.”
A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council told ‘Ballymena Daily’ on Monday: “The main purpose of the major works at Ballymena Showgrounds was to bring the pitch up to European standards.
“A Uefa inspection took place just recently and we are awaiting official confirmation on achieving European status for the venue.
“Some areas of the surface have been adversely affected following a busy fixture programme, combined with the impact of snow and prolonged and heavy downpours in recent days.
“We are working to address these matters and a maintenance plan is in place to ensure a high quality playing surface at Ballymena Showgrounds.”