Bute’s best-known footballing export has given his support to a new campaign to bring a 3G artificial pitch to the island.
Dundee’s Jim McAlister is backing a new community group formed to put pressure on Argyll and Bute Council after a huge increase in the cost of hiring the present Rothesay Joint Campus surface was approved.
Earlier this month councillors voted in favour of a proposal to increase the cost of hiring a full artificial pitch across the local authority area to £55 an hour by 2018-19.
That charge will represent a 260 per cent increase on the current Rothesay rate of £15.27 an hour.
There has, so far, been no firm commitment from the council to upgrading the Rothesay surface - currently the only one under the council’s control which is not of a 3G standard.
“The current pitch is a shambles that stems from the dark ages,” Jim said.
“Huge importance must be placed on the development of our young, and part of that must be through sport. A modern 3G pitch and affordability is vital to this.”
The current 2G surface in Rothesay has been widely criticised by several local sports teams, who say it leaves players more susceptible to injury as well as not being suitable for competitive football matches approved by the Scottish FA.
One of those critics, Roddie Leitch from Bute Youth Football, has already said he won’t return to use the surface because of the price increase.
“It is quite shocking that Rothesay is the only major town, and Bute the only community, not to have access to a 3G pitch,” Roddie said.
“Organising a football team is an expensive business, with ferry costs etc, and to place this huge burden on a very poor training facility at a time when the only other available facility, the Pavilion, will be closing is a complete disgrace.”
The campaign also has the backing of Rothesay Academy pupil Jamie Murray, who is standing for election to the Scottish Youth Parliament.
“Sport is definitely the key to the lives of our young people,” Jamie said. “It promotes teamwork, self esteem and healthy living, all of which are crucial to growing up. Accessibility and up-to-date facilities is very important.”
Rothesay resident Hugh Moodie, also part of the campaign, added: “The decision by the council is not just ill considered, but goes completely against the run of thought that sport should be more accessible.
“All over the country, communities are benefiting from the Games Legacy, except here on Bute, where a new policy of high cost, poor facilities and even removal of facilities seems to be the order of the day.
“Most worrying is that the Council failed to even ask the community for its opinion on this before putting it in place. It appears that the council is in fact ruling over us and not representing us.”