Ashburton soccer players refuse to be bogged down

PIGS would have been deliriously happy at Warner Reserve this past winter, and the slipping, sliding, mud-laden members of the Ashburton United Soccer Club have been good sports, too.

But so deep were the bogs at this and three other ovals that the 700-strong club was forced to move games and training to fields as far away as Knox and Darebin after  Football Federation  Victoria deemed their home grounds unsafe for play.

Parents also complained of their children’s shoes being sucked from their feet by the mud.

The outcry has prompted Boroondara council to offer a review of the tenancy fees of clubs forced to pay for grounds elsewhere. But the council has no budget allocation to improve drainage at the worst-affected field, Markham Reserve, which AUSC vice-president Anthony Nicholls said was ‘‘like a dairy farm – a quagmire’’.

AUSC, which has about 400 junior players, will pay about $17,000 this year to use  four Ashburton grounds.

Boroondara’s infrastructure director, David Powell, said that though the council had not closed grounds during winter, ‘‘ grounds such as Ashburton Park have a turf cricket wicket in the centre of the ground that can become muddy during wet weather’’.

Mr Nicholls said it could cost $200,000 to level Markham Reserve and install drainage, with grants available from the state government for soccer facilities. ‘‘But these require the council to apply for them. We cannot apply for them in our own right.’’

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