TWO football clubs in Caerphilly want to create a new ground to allow them to progress through the leagues, but the plans have drawn opposition.

Caerphilly Castle Ladies and Girls Football Club, together with Caerphilly Athletic FC, have joined together to create Virginia Park Community Group, as both teams want to bring Football Association of Wales approved facilities to the town.

Improved facilities would mean that the teams would be able to progress as clubs, and Caerphilly Athletic could enter the FAW's Cymru and Ardal (area) leagues.

On May 10, Virginia Park residents received a letter from the football clubs informing them of their proposals to develop the field which is adjacent to Caerphilly Rugby Club's ground of the same name.

Since then, the football teams have submitted an expression of interest to lease the football pitch in Virginia Park from the council – this would be via a Community Asset Transfer (CAT).

The teams are currently in talks with Caerphilly County Borough Council in relation to the CAT.

If the CAT goes ahead, planning permission would need to be obtained prior to any construction work.

The plans are expected to include football stands with a capacity for 100 spectators, changing rooms, toilets, and dugouts – which is where the team’s manager, coaching staff and substitutes would sit.

What is  a Community Asset Transfer?

A Community Asset Transfer happens when a public sector body, such as the council, transfers the management and/or ownership of a property asset to a community council or community group.

This means the community council or group that take on the asset would be responsible for running it and maintaining it.

Caerphilly County Borough Council’s website states: “Any decision regarding a potential CAT must be based on the continued use of the asset for the whole of the community and not a defined group of people for a specified purpose.

“The proposed use should therefore be as extensive as possible and should be focused on wider community wellbeing.”

A Welsh Government report states: “CAT is a methodology that must centre on mutual benefit with a joined up vision to achieve a shared goal.”

'Dead against' the proposals

Michael Mortimore has lived on Pontygwindy Road for 39 years and has said he is “dead against” the proposals.

His petition against the plans for the ground development in Virginia Park has received around 300 signatures – all of which are by those who live locally or use the field.

Credit: Caerphilly Castle Ladies And Girls FC

Dawn Morton (pictured above with husband Dyfri) is against the proposals and believes the space should be available to all those in the community.

Dawn, whose home on Melville Terrace faces the field, said: “There’s nothing stopping the team from playing there at the moment – it’s great to see. But, not everyone wants to play football and it shouldn’t be just for football.”

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Dyfri Morton echoed his wife’s views and said: “We want the field to be available so that when they aren’t playing football, it can be used by families.”

Parking and access to their homes are also concerns for residents due to a lack of parking off Pontygwindy Road.

'Caerphilly town deserves a team that can play at a high level'

Caerphilly Athletic’s First Team Manager, Ian Butterworth, has said the lack of facilities in Caerphilly are preventing local teams from progressing. His sid currently play in Divison One of the South Wales Alliance League which is below the FAW's national and regional leagues.

The FAW's criteria includes a permanent, fully-covered stand with a minimum capacity of 100 spectators, alongside changing rooms, toilets and hospitality facilities.

Ian said: “Anyone that is any good at football has to go outside the borough, we’re losing talent because of this. Caerphilly town deserves a team that can play at a high level.”

Currently, the only FAW approved facility is the Centre of Sporting Excellence in Ystrad Mynach, which is at full capacity.

“It’s about the minis and looking to the future”

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Bethan Bushen plays for Caerphilly Castle Ladies and coaches the junior team. She said: “I have been playing for the team for 15 years and we have never had a place to call home – everyone has to travel to a different venue every week."

Credit: Caerphilly Castle Ladies And Girls FCVirginia Park as it is presently.

She said the team is unable to progress through the FAW pyramid due to a lack of facilities.

“We can’t currently progress to the Adran South because of box-ticking – we need to be able to have facilities for the team and the women to progress, and for the minis to have in future.”

Caerphilly Castle Girls FC currently train at Virginia Park, but Bethan said the lack of changing rooms and toilets could put girls off playing football all together.

The 26-year-old added: “I coach girls from four to ten years old and I want to give them the right facilities where they feel comfortable. For me it’s about the minis and looking to the future.”

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