As most grounds are drenched with water and with grass creeping higher and higher, one ground in the Illawarra has never been busier. This Saturday, Ian McLennan Park will host a full day of Men’s Premier League First Grade matches.
It was the $800,000 investment that Football South Coast made to provide the region with its first FIFA accredited synthetic pitch. The NSW State Government and Wollongong City Council were also key contributors of funding to ensure that the community, including Member Clubs, schools, representative teams, and community groups had access to an all-weather playing facility.
The intention as agreed with all clubs was for the Men’s Premiership to commence early in 2022 however, the wet weather system of La Nina has meant that most clubs have not played any games leading up to Round 6 of the scheduled Men’s Premiership competition.
In a concept proposed by Football South Coast, Ian McLennan Park will host back -to-back Men’s Premiership First Grade games. This will allow each ‘home’ club to take a portion of the gate takings, and funds from the canteen, being operated by South Coast United will be used to cover match day expenses such as referee payments.
Over the last few weeks, the Men’s Premiership has not been the only competition impacted. The Community League (Peter Webster Cup) and the Women’s Pre-Season Cups (Bonnie Lassie and the Julie Porter Cup) have also been impacted by the unprecedented volume of rain. With such challenging scheduling logistics, stakeholders have successfully worked together to ensure each competition has been able to have some of their games played.
The FSC Facility Manager has never been busier with constant booking requests and the ongoing maintenance of the pitch and facility. Under the license model with Wollongong City Council, FSC is responsible for the maintenance and up-keep of the pitch including the replacement costs estimated at $500,000 at some point over the next decade.
In the past number of weeks, the facility has also been utilised by a number of schools, NPL teams and has hosted numerous mid-week games.
It’s a difficult balancing act compounded by the timing of Australia Cup games which need to be played by certain dates. Added to this is the scramble for clubs to have some training alternatives with a number of clubs also utilising smaller synthetic pitches available.
What is clear is that one synthetic pitch has alleviated some pressure, however with unprecedented rainfall, we can only look at Queensland and other areas of NSW to see the devastating impacts of this weather. Hopefully there is light (or sun) at the end of the tunnel. Like many others, FSC hopes to see more synthetic pitches be installed in the years to come because there is a clear need for them.
Saturday will be a great opportunity for the community to see some great quality local football at Ian McLennan Park and we thank South Coast United for facilitating the day. We would also like to acknowledge the designated home clubs who will likely endure some financial losses to ensure the success of this concept. We hope to do something similar for District League over the coming weeks. Games on Saturday will kick off at 10.00am with the following schedule….
10.00am Port Kembla v Corrimal Rangers
12.00pm Woonona v Coniston
2.00pm Bellambi v Cringila
4.00pm South Coast United v Wollongong United
6.00pm Bulli v Wollongong Olympic
8.00pm Albion Park W.E. v Tarrawanna
We look forward to seeing a great crowd throughout the day.