A Scottish Government announcement that £300,000 clawed back from crooks’ cash is to be invested in an all-weather pitch at the Market Muir caused consternation and confusion for many in the town last week, with many calling foul on Forfar Farmington and Forfar Athletic Football Clubs.
A suggestion that the clubs had submitted a joint application for a 3G football facility on Common Good Ground at The Market Muir forced the clubs’ chairmen to issue statements clarifying the situation, whilst welcoming the news that, if the appropriate funding is made available, the Forfar community will benefit from an all-weather pitch.
On the same evening the news broke, a trust was set up to plough forward with plans for a separate 2G multi-sports facility on a site at Forfar Academy which would be used for football, rugby and hockey as well as Forfar Academy pupils.
The timing and inaccurate handling of the government press release was also raised at last Thursday evening’s meeting of Forfar Community Council.
Members of the public had been quick off the mark to raise concerns about the timing of the Scottish Government allocation as well as fears the facility at the Market Muir would be purely for the exclusive use of Forfar Farmington and Forfar Athletic.
However, Forfar Farmington Chairman Mr Colin Brown has given a “categorical assurance” there had been no application made on behalf of Forfar Farmington Football Club for the government money, and that he had known nothing about the cash windfall.
The first he knew about it was when he got a telephone call from the press on Wednesday afternoon.
He said: “I didn’t know an application was put in.”
Whilst a press report suggested a joint bid had come from Forfar Farmington and Forfar Athletic, he added: “We have never even talked to Forfar Athletic.
“It was the SFA that put in the application but they never informed the two clubs.
“Forfar Farmington did not put in an application, they had no plans for an all-weather pitch. It was recommended by the SFA and the first I knew was before the public meeting.”
He added he had supported the attempts to get an all-weather pitch at Forfar Academy “from day one” - he still did and felt there was room in the town for two.
He also allayed fears the facility would only be used by Forfar Farmington, adding the girls’ season ran from mid-November to February and stressed the Market Muir is already used by other members of the community, including Lowson United, Strathmore and a boys team.
These concerns were raised at the Community Council meeting on Thursday night by Angus Councillor Glennis Middleton, who pointed out there were people “other than footballers” who wanted to use the Market Muir, “whether to walk dogs, play with their children or fly their kites.”
Mr Neill Wilson, chairman of Forfar Athletic Football Club, also stated the announcement from the Scottish Government had been a “bolt out of the blue”.
He said: “I can assure you we knew nothing about it, we never even knew about this fund to be honest.
“It is great news for Forfar Athletic as we do have training problems. We have been playing our youth home games at Montrose. This is predominantly for the youths but we haven’t got the fine details.”
He added he had gone along to last Wednesday’s public meeting to discuss the all-weather pitch at Forfar Academy, representing Forfar Athletic with fellow director Alastair Donald, when the news about the funding broke.
He described it as a “huge co-incidence”, and stressed Forfar Athletic had made no application.
Amid all the consternation, a trust was successfully formed at the public meeting on Wednesday evening which is chaired by Mr Joseph Mitchell, chairman of Forfar Boys Football Club.
Commenting on Thursday he welcomed the allocation of funds.
He said: “As far as myself and Forfar Boys are concerned, it’s great news. It will be a good asset for the town.
“It was decided one all-weather pitch in Forfar wouldn’t be enough and the strength of feeling was that we would still like to provide a multi-sport, all-weather pitch at Forfar Academy which would benefit the wider community, not just football teams. A trust was formed with a view of taking that ultimate aim forward of providing an all-weather pitch at the academy. We will now have a meeting of committee members with a view to applying for grant funding and get the whole process kicked off. We have to get costings and get some firm figures in with the help of Angus Council’s leisure services department.”
He added a site had been identified at Forfar Academy and that the trust was working with the council’s external funding department.
Confirming the £300,000 funding a Scottish FA spokesperson said: “The Scottish FA was asked to supply a range of options across the whole country, which we did, and it was then a joint process involving us, sportscotland and the Scottish Government to determine the best spread of resources across Scotland.”
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill added: “As one of our CashBack partners, the Scottish FA is helping us ensure that the ill-gotten gains of criminals can be put to good use by keeping youngsters out of trouble and hopefully unearthing future Scotland football stars.”