News

Anger over failure to restore floodlights at council-owned football training pitches

Council cuts power following series of security issues at artificial pitches in Donkey Lane, forcing young footballers to use car headlights instead

Young footballers training using car headlights
Young footballers were forced to train using car headlights

Young footballers have been left to train on dark evenings with only car headlights to illuminate them after Enfield Council cut power to the floodlights for their training pitches.

Coaches of the youth section at Enfield Town FC (ETFC) decided to take the drastic action last week after going a whole month without floodlights at the artificial pitches on Enfield Playing Fields in Donkey Lane.

Ram Ismail, a director at ETFC who leads on community interaction and activities, took to Twitter last week to complain over the “appalling management of the site” by the council and shared pictures of the club’s youngsters training with the help of car headlights.

The council has since told him that power to the floodlights was cut intentionally as a result of security problems with intruders gaining access to the pitches without permission and then breaking into the fuse box.

However, the problem remains unresolved and the pitches continue to be out of action.

Ram told the Dispatch that there had been numerous issues affecting the 3G pitches since they were installed in autumn 2017. These include vandalism, broken fences, “a monstrous amount of litter” and damaged equipment.

He explained: “We have complained and raised concerns since day one to all relevant stakeholders, including council officers, councillors and MPs, [but] absolutely nothing has been done to maintain, protect and sustain the invaluable site – in fact it’s become a site for criminality.

“Despite our suggestions and ideas, nothing has been taken on board or embraced.”

The pitches were installed thanks to funding from the Premier League and its charity, the Football Foundation, with Enfield Town FC committing to use it to help grow the game. Since then the supporter-owned club’s adult, youth and disability teams have all used the facility, spending between £40,000 and £50,000 per year on hiring fees.

This has helped the club expand, but mounting problems at the site, culminating with the power being cut last month, have led the club to demand action.

While the council has not responded to a request for comment, the civic centre’s head of parks and leisure told Ram in an email: “The issue with the lights at present is that the unauthorised players are accessing the electric box forcefully, at times with angle grinders to override controls. It has been identified by technical colleagues that this will present a risk to life if this continues, and the decision has been made to isolate power for the time being until a resolution is found.


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“Officers are working on options during this temporary disruption […] I acknowledge the loss of bookings, potential play and inconvenience this causes, and will update you once a formal decision has been made.

“As we understand the potential risk to life and magnitude that people are willing to take to abuse this facility, we have to take appropriate measures to mitigate risk.”

Funding for enhanced security measures has apparently been secured, according to the email, which will see CCTV cameras installed and entrances monitored. An alarm mechanism will also be installed, it states.

Ram has said in response that he hopes new security and safety measures “are made a priority and implemented as soon as possible, so everyone concerned can get back to enjoying the facilities”.

Update (10th January):

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “The floodlights at the pitch in Donkey Lane have been disconnected due to illegal trespassers accessing the site and switching them on. We are sorry that the actions of trespassers and vandalism have resulted in negative impacts towards football matches and training sessions.

“The damage caused and potential interference of the safety mechanism in the fuse box can cause risk to life, so the lighting has been temporarily deactivated. The council prioritises health and safety so had to take action by temporarily deactivating the lights.

“The council will be meeting with contractors to discuss additional security measures, with a view to reactivating the floodlights. Timescales for the work to be completed will be communicated.

“The council will be working with the police to tackle unacceptable anti-social behaviour witnessed by pitch users, and want to work closely with local football clubs to ensure matches and training sessions are not impacted in the future.

“Litter is cleared from the facility on a daily basis and is inclusive of weekends, but any excess litter can be reported to the council via its website. We also encourage anyone using the pitch to use nearby bins or to take their rubbish home with them.

“The broken wheels on the mini goals is caused by incorrect manoeuvring in the goalmouths. The council replaces damaged items such as wheels and goal nets on a frequent basis and will continue to do so.”


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