Here are the roots, please tend to them

About five years ago, I made the decision to come to Warwick University from Singapore. As sad as this might sound, one of the reasons why I came to the University and the UK in general was football. My logic was pretty simple; I love football, especially playing it, so what better place to fulfil this passion than the home of the sport?

Unfortunately, things didn’t start well. I failed to even make the cut for the second round of trials for the men’s team. This was disappointing but acceptable given how badly I played. Alas, although I did make it to the second round a year later, I failed to make the final cut. I am resigned to never knowing what they put in those awkwardly large bags with their initials on.

Nevertheless, I was consoled at the time by the prospect of playing in the recreational leagues that ran on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (the ‘KPMG Leagues’, rebranded this year as the ‘E&Y Leagues’). I eagerly signed up to play for not just one, but three different teams, one in each league. How greedy could I get?

Well, as it turns out, not greedy enough. The games, which were biweekly, lasted a paltry 50 minutes at best. This was even worse when you were either a substitute or substituted off – can you imagine getting kitted up and travelling from Leamington to maybe play 25 minutes?

Moreover, if your team happened to play last, the fact that the games were arranged back-to-back with little leeway inbetween meant that your game would usually be cut short! Thus, far from being greedy, signing up for three teams (and 5-a-side as well) was the only way that I could get my fill of football! And as I found out as the term progressed, this was common practice amongst the recreational footballing community!

Ultimately, the point that I’m trying to make is that there seems to be a lot of students/recreational footballers comprising a sizeable proportion of the student body who suffer from scarcity of playing time. One of the main causes of this is the fact that we only have one decent pitch to play on – the hallowed synthetic grass Tarkett Sommer Pitch. This is in comparison with the men’s team, who have a number of luscious grass pitches to play on at Cryfield, as mentioned on their website (Warwick Sport’s website also mentions these pitches but fails to point out their exclusivity).

On the surface at least, this is a simple problem of supply and demand that can be solved in one of two ways: either open up some of those fields used by the men’s team for spillover from the Tarkett or build another Tarkett, the latter being more feasible to my mind. But there is more than meets the eye. Most notably, the University would incur cost in respect of both solutions – maintenance and construction, respectively – that would put pressure on its budgetary constraints. Admittedly, there are a number of things that are probably more important than a new football pitch, like a new library for example. But after these things are attended to, why not satiate the apparently large demand for a new Tarkett, rather than some other expensive but politically attractive white elephant that depends upon the university’s captive audience to pay itself off?

Lastly, I’d like to make a point of a slightly more contentious nature. As part of my research into the aforesaid issue, I thought about the platforms that past and present Students’ Union Sports Officers have run on and looked at the Sports Officer’s mandate. Both the platforms and the mandate include something about supporting the recreational leagues and recreational sport in general. But in truth, this inclusion is always in passing. Priority is given to the sports societies. Now I am not saying that this is wrong: obviously, the Sports Officer, the Students’ Union and the University must care for the sports societies.

But I think that attention is also due to the many who exist outside the sports societies and fall through the cracks as such. These students are just as worthy of care as any other, and it is an institutional failure if such care is absent. Indeed, this year’s Sports Officer once suggested to me that more student activism ought to occur at grassroots level. Well, here are the roots: please tend to them.

Agree with what I’m saying? Just want to play more football? Sign the online petition:


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