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Cumbrian soccer club kicks off £135,000 of pitch improvements

An historic West Cumbrian soccer club is looking forward to its first ‘pitch perfect’ season in more than 100 years.

Cleator Moor Celtic Football Club – promoted to the North West Counties Division 1 North last year – has started work on a £135,000 project to improve its waterlogged pitch.

The project involves installing new primary drains and soak-away channels and will take place outside the soccer season over two consecutive summers.

Volunteer groundsman David Graham, who also oversaw fund-raising, said the club’s promotion to a semi-professional league meant having to adhere to strict new standards on facilities at its ground in JBV/McGrath Park. Ideally more than 200 players aged six and up would use the ground on a regular basis.

“Because we have a clay-based pitch and are in a very wet part of the country we have problems every winter with games being cancelled and re-scheduled. In past years we have had to play a backlog of three or four re-scheduled games in the same week. It’s not good for the players, and when we’re really struggling with pitch availability the juniors miss out too,” he said.

Despite the difficulties, Cleator Moor Celtic’s first team finished solidly mid table in its first season in the new league. And the plus side of playing at a higher level has been access to more funding to upgrade facilities for the benefit of its players and devoted fans.

A combination of local fundraising, a £10,000 grant from the United Utilities Cumbria Legacy Fund via the Cumbria Community Foundation, and more than £25,000 from Copeland Council helped clinch a much larger £73,500 award from the Football Foundation’s Football Stadium Improvement Fund.

Over the next five weeks a sports turf specialist will oversee the stripping and levelling of the pitch and the installation of a network of primary drains. Next summer, more than 100 full pitch width sand slips will be installed.

It’s the club’s biggest single project in 20 years and with 12 months to go there’s still almost £20,000 left to raise.

Congratulating the club, John Hilton, project director for United Utilities £300m West Cumbria Water Supply scheme, says: “The idea behind grants like this one is to leave a long-term legacy which will keep improving the lives of West Cumbrians and the local environment long after construction finishes.

“We’re really delighted to be able to support such great local sports club through the United Utilities Legacy Fund and are looking forward to seeing them go from strength to strength.”

Added Mr Graham: “We are very grateful for the help we have received, especially the regional pitch advisor of the Institute of Groundsmen and the Cumberland FA, as well as all of our funders. Hopefully we will reach the Sport England standard for winter pitches in time for the start of the 2020/21 season so that even in the worst of weathers we will be able to play at least two games a week.”

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