Football club unveils artificial pitch plan

MANGOTSFIELD United Football Club has unveiled plans to replace the pitch at its Cossham Street ground with artificial turf.

The club says it can increase accessibility and use of the ground by schools and other organisations by installing the all-weather surface as part of a revamp that will cost around £1.2 million.

The project also includes replacing the existing floodlights with more energy-efficient LED lighting, which will reduce light pollution in neighbouring areas, and upgrading the clubhouse.

Work on the pitch will include levelling it – there is currently a 2.2m (7ft 2in) drop between its highest and lowest corners.

The margins around the sides of the pitch will also be widened, to meet new safety guidelines to prevent head injuries to players. That will involve expanding the ground on one side, moving the boundary 5m into the neighbouring Hut Field, which is used by the community as well as for some club training sessions.

Details of the project were unveiled at a meeting for fans and neighbours held at the Cossham Street clubhouse in September.

Glyn Ashton, who as well as being the first team manager is a trustee and chair of the Mangotsfield & Blackhorse Sports and Community Association, said: “There’s lots of things we can do with a playing surface that’s available pretty much every day of the week.”

The current grass playing surface can only stand limited use but Glyn said an artificial surface could be used by children from nearby schools both for special events, such as tournaments, or PE lessons.

The artificial pitch would be available for training not only by the first team but by partner clubs including the juniors, women’s side and AFC Mangotsfield, rugby teams, walking football teams and disability sports.

Glyn said: “We see this as a really underused facility that can be reborn for the benefit not just of the football clubs that play here but for the community as a whole.”

Funding for the scheme would come from the club’s own fundraising and the Football Foundation, the charity which awards Premier League, FA and Government money to grassroots football facilities.

The club has been working with specialist contractors McArdle Sport Tec on the plans.

Tom Fearn, from the company, said the designs would be submitted for planning permission during October and would have to be approved before funding could be finalised.

The scheme involves installing eight new columns for LED floodlights, which at 15m (49ft) tall would be shorter than the existing four 18m (59ft) columns on each corner and were more directional than the current lights, which would mean less light spills out into the surrounding area.

If permission is granted the club hopes to have funding in place by next April, with work starting at the end of the season in May.

It would take about five months, which means that the team would have to start the following 2024/25 season at another ground before moving back to Cossham Street.

Club chair Steve Brown said there were some “viable candidates” for a ground share, although nothing had been agreed as yet.

He said the plans would enable the club to generate more income so its facilities were “self-sustaining” and did not need to rely on a dwindling number of volunteers for their upkeep.

Steve said: “The work a lot of people have put into this could end up bringing a large investment into the local area, that’s going to benefit everybody who uses the site, now and in the future.”