Pitch blamed as UEFA switches stadium games
BOTH of today’s European championship matches planned for Carmarthen have been moved to Llanelli because of concerns over the pitch.
It is a major blow for Carmarthen Town whose members and volunteers had spent months preparing Richmond Park for Wales’s first Uefa-sanctioned tournament.
Monday’s European Under- 19s Championship game between England and France was moved to Stebonheath Park because of a heavily waterlogged pitch after a week’s worth of rain fell over 12 hours on Saturday.
Club chairman Gareth Jones said he was at a loss as to what was causing the drainage problems and had concerns for the season ahead, adding: “If it is like this in August, what is it going to be like in September?”
After seeing an improvement in the pitch earlier this week, club officials had been hopeful to retain one of today’s ties — a crunch match between Wales and England.
But Uefa and FAW officials visited the ground on Tuesday night and although it was playable, they made a decision to move both games to preserve the turf for Sunday’s group qualifiers.
It means Carmarthen has missed out on three of its five scheduled matched.
Mr Jones said: “The games have been switched but the pitch is now playable.
“If we had to play the game we could have had a problem for Sunday.
“Sunday’s game is important as the four matches have to be played at the same time.
“The referee came down last night and said the pitch was playable.
“They are very confident we will have Sunday’s game and they still want us to host the semi-final on Wednesday night.
“We feel terrible. We have worked so hard over the past weeks and months and something like this happens and there is no explanation.
“After this tournament we will have a three-week window to carry out some remedial work.”
The tournament is seen as the FAW’s chance to show what the country has to offer and pave the way for more prestigious competitions.
This year Richmond Park has had new changing rooms built ahead of the tournament with a £250,000 FAW grant.
Mr Jones added the FAW had sent down its chief groundsman on Monday night in a bid to get the pitch match ready.
He added: “We had the head groundsman down on Monday night advising us on how to proceed in the short-term and long-term, so that was helpful.”