MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: County made mistake, but we need all parties on Parade pulling together

NEVER in my wildest dreams did I imagine the lame pun of 'Life's a pitch' would get such incredible mileage.

We are now in what feels like week 6000 of being pre-occupied with a 112x72 yard surface of grass at Rodney Parade that has had more scrutiny than Owen Paterson and Mark Harper combined.

The Exiles have lost five successive home games to the rain and have slipped eight points adrift of the top seven in League Two (thought they are seemingly immovable from eighth) while Newport RFC and the Dragons have also seen postponements hit their schedules.

It's a worrying situation and perhaps it's wise to take stock with so many accusing fingers being pointed.

I'm going to largely come at this from the Newport County perspective, because we have a fine rugby columnist, but it'll be impossible to assess the overall picture on Parade without referencing the rugby clubs.

Firstly, let us accept common ground on the grand scheme of things at Rodney Parade.

It's very testing to have three teams playing on the same pitch. But it's possible, because we saw that last season.

Work was done in the summer on the Rodney Parade pitch. It was paid for by County, with the help of a Football League grant, cost £80,000 while the rugby sides worked on an irrigation improvement that was a £40,000 investment.

The idea, is that combined, they'll vastly improve the pitch. It is universally accepted that IS the case, but the chink in the armour is that the work wasn't finished.

Some of the north side of the ground won't be completed until the summer. Because of this and the incredible rain levels - the worst in almost 250 years - we've had huge problems. The above, I hope, we can at least all nod in agreement about.

Now we move from accepted truth to opinion.

I've had very little cause to criticise the Newport County hierarchy in the past 18 months, but it is patently clear to all that they made a real mistake last week in deciding to put covers on the pitch after Newport RFC's loss to Aberavon.

It was County, not Rodney Parade's Head of Operations Mark Jones, who called on supporters to come and help lay the covers. It was County, not Jones, who decided the best way to give themselves a chance of playing on Saturday was to put sodden frost covers down, on already wet turf.

It was a mistake. The area was trampled and when the covers came off on Friday, those areas were the worst on the whole pitch. Yes they were the worst to begin with, but even County now acknowledge it was a bad move.

Frankly, it reeked of desperation. Having already lost four games, having ignored pleas from fans to investigate getting proper covers, rain covers, not frost ones, having done A LOT of work (with Glamorgan CCC and the Celtic Manor both assisting with machinery), it came across to me as an exasperated final roll of the dice.

It was foolish. Dave Boddy, County's chief executive, bravely confessed it was his idea and that incidentally is entirely in keeping with someone I have found to be an honest and decent man, who works very hard and doesn't deserve the vitriolic criticism and scepticism he has received since joining the club.

However, in this instance, he made an error of judgement. Dave Boddy shouldn't be pioneering efforts to improve the pitch any more than Mark Jones should be on the phone trying to get a better deal with Newport County's sponsors.

Kudos to the volunteers who are always at the ready for the club they love, but it was a mission of folly through no fault of their own and it gave the Dragons no chance of playing on Sunday which won't help relations.

Now County are hiring 'dome covers' and more power to them, it's a positive move. However (and this is where I fear I will upset some at County) if Newport had a better rapport and dialogue with the faction of fans they publicly fell out with, might this not already be sorted?

I can pretty much guarantee that at the least, they'd have organised a fund-raising event. At best, something similar to the fighting fund to avoid Conference relegation might have seen the Exiles able to invest in the long-term, in a 'plan B' for weather that is positively freakish. And let us be clear, by far and away the biggest culprit in all of this is the dastardly weather.

However, we can and should praise County for acting now, especially as the games either side of the Wimbledon and Fleetwood postponements - all three of them - were unavoidable and in keeping with postponements across the region, which is reflected in the fact Newport don't have five games in hand on their rivals.

While I felt it was, in this instance, appropriate to focus on what Newport County could've done better, I really do think we should all be enormously careful when pointing fingers at Mark Jones and his staff.

They worked miracles last year, they work incredibly long hours and the current situation is pushing them to breaking point. They are at their lowest ebb. I certainly don't envy their task and am incredibly grateful for their efforts. We should all keep this in mind.

Similarly, it’s a very, very dangerous road to travel to be asking “couldn’t Les Scadding pay for that?” His generosity has already helped the Exiles immeasurably and it should never be about waiting for him to hand out his own money.

We can certainly expect that all three teams at Rodney Parade can and will complete their remaining fixtures and as previously stated, I still firmly believe the Exiles have an excellent chance of reaching the play-offs.

But if I think one lesson can be taken from this whole thing, it is that relations across the board at Rodney Parade could be improved.

County were wrong to bullishly go their own way last week, but there is still a prevalent feeling on the football side that they are viewed as the odd-one-out, even an inconvenience.

There are some harsh realities to face for a minority who don't like football at the stadium. Newport County AFC are not tenants at Rodney Parade any more than the Dragons are. And sorry, but it's no longer a rugby ground.

It's a sporting arena to make an entire city brim with pride. All three clubs should be viewing one another as partners, not lodgers or housemates you are stuck with like you are first years at university.

Rodney Parade belongs to Newport RFC and that stage, the wonderful arena full of spirit and atmosphere, is still the best place for the Dragons AND the County to thrive. But everyone has to be pulling in the same direction at all times.

Comments (12)

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10:47am Tue 11 Feb 14

mep says...

Agree, administrators should get on with what they do best and leave the preparation of the pitch to the experts, Mark Jones and company.
Agree, administrators should get on with what they do best and leave the preparation of the pitch to the experts, Mark Jones and company. mep

11:04am Tue 11 Feb 14

Roland Thompson-Gunner says...

It wasn't five consecutive postponements.
It wasn't five consecutive postponements. Roland Thompson-Gunner

11:06am Tue 11 Feb 14

lowandhardandinthecorner says...

Well said Pearlo, those at the top of RFC, Dragons and County should listen well and must learn to work and plan together with regular liaison meetings.
Well said Pearlo, those at the top of RFC, Dragons and County should listen well and must learn to work and plan together with regular liaison meetings. lowandhardandinthecorner

11:18am Tue 11 Feb 14

CountyValleyboy says...

Well said !
Well said ! CountyValleyboy

12:18pm Tue 11 Feb 14

Nptsportsfan says...

Great article. Years ago a broad sheet did an article entitled something like "Newport the town where sport died". At the time the County had folded and Newport rugby were a mess, they also pojnted out that at one time we had a leg of the Milk race, the equivalent of the Stella Artois tennis tournament was played at Newport Athletic club and Glamorgan county cricket also played games in Newport.

Lets hope we can learn from the mistakes of the past and like Leicester for example can have full houses for both sports. County fans need to appreciate the move to a better ground(present pitch condition accepted) and the rugby fans need to appreciate that their main secondary income apart from matchday and main sponsors comes from the County.

The wider economic picture is Newport business will benefit from thriving rugby and football teams.
Great article. Years ago a broad sheet did an article entitled something like "Newport the town where sport died". At the time the County had folded and Newport rugby were a mess, they also pojnted out that at one time we had a leg of the Milk race, the equivalent of the Stella Artois tennis tournament was played at Newport Athletic club and Glamorgan county cricket also played games in Newport. Lets hope we can learn from the mistakes of the past and like Leicester for example can have full houses for both sports. County fans need to appreciate the move to a better ground(present pitch condition accepted) and the rugby fans need to appreciate that their main secondary income apart from matchday and main sponsors comes from the County. The wider economic picture is Newport business will benefit from thriving rugby and football teams. Nptsportsfan

2:58pm Tue 11 Feb 14

NakedDancer says...

A strange story. As I understand it the Head Groundsman works for and is accountable to Rodney Parade Limited and he is the only authority for what is done to the pitch. Newport County, Newport Gwent Dragons and Newport RFC have no authority to do anything to the pitch.

Hence Mr Boddy, or anyone else, can come up with ideas but its the Head Groundsman that makes all decisions as he has the knowledge and authority. I cant imagine Mr Boddy unilaterally borrowed covers and volunteers to install them without the Head Groundsmans approval - that would be crazy.
A strange story. As I understand it the Head Groundsman works for and is accountable to Rodney Parade Limited and he is the only authority for what is done to the pitch. Newport County, Newport Gwent Dragons and Newport RFC have no authority to do anything to the pitch. Hence Mr Boddy, or anyone else, can come up with ideas but its the Head Groundsman that makes all decisions as he has the knowledge and authority. I cant imagine Mr Boddy unilaterally borrowed covers and volunteers to install them without the Head Groundsmans approval - that would be crazy. NakedDancer

4:27pm Tue 11 Feb 14

Pianoman42 says...

I think it is very, very dangerous to have had all these postponements, and continuing, and not to acknowledge that replacing the pitch with a Desso pitch was the way forward.

I have seen the Liberty stadium this season. Fantastic.

Do they have postponements? No.

Does their team and management have to endure this continuing frustration? No.

I will keep on banging on about this.

So please, in the close season, just do it.

I hope that it is not a matter of finance, but if it is, I need say no more.......
I think it is very, very dangerous to have had all these postponements, and continuing, and not to acknowledge that replacing the pitch with a Desso pitch was the way forward. I have seen the Liberty stadium this season. Fantastic. Do they have postponements? No. Does their team and management have to endure this continuing frustration? No. I will keep on banging on about this. So please, in the close season, just do it. I hope that it is not a matter of finance, but if it is, I need say no more....... Pianoman42

4:47pm Tue 11 Feb 14

DDDog1 says...

NakedDancer wrote:
A strange story. As I understand it the Head Groundsman works for and is accountable to Rodney Parade Limited and he is the only authority for what is done to the pitch. Newport County, Newport Gwent Dragons and Newport RFC have no authority to do anything to the pitch.

Hence Mr Boddy, or anyone else, can come up with ideas but its the Head Groundsman that makes all decisions as he has the knowledge and authority. I cant imagine Mr Boddy unilaterally borrowed covers and volunteers to install them without the Head Groundsmans approval - that would be crazy.
Couple of points mr Pearlman,how can waterproof covers ( the plastic type) be sodden? And being present on the night I can tell you that one of our party had been advised by Mark Jones how some of the covers should be laid , so who's telling the truth?
[quote][p][bold]NakedDancer[/bold] wrote: A strange story. As I understand it the Head Groundsman works for and is accountable to Rodney Parade Limited and he is the only authority for what is done to the pitch. Newport County, Newport Gwent Dragons and Newport RFC have no authority to do anything to the pitch. Hence Mr Boddy, or anyone else, can come up with ideas but its the Head Groundsman that makes all decisions as he has the knowledge and authority. I cant imagine Mr Boddy unilaterally borrowed covers and volunteers to install them without the Head Groundsmans approval - that would be crazy.[/p][/quote]Couple of points mr Pearlman,how can waterproof covers ( the plastic type) be sodden? And being present on the night I can tell you that one of our party had been advised by Mark Jones how some of the covers should be laid , so who's telling the truth? DDDog1

4:50pm Tue 11 Feb 14

NakedDancer says...

Pianoman42 wrote:
I think it is very, very dangerous to have had all these postponements, and continuing, and not to acknowledge that replacing the pitch with a Desso pitch was the way forward. I have seen the Liberty stadium this season. Fantastic. Do they have postponements? No. Does their team and management have to endure this continuing frustration? No. I will keep on banging on about this. So please, in the close season, just do it. I hope that it is not a matter of finance, but if it is, I need say no more.......
Maintenance of a grass pitch is around £85k per year. A Desso pitch (grass with 3% plastic spikes) costs £250-500k. It has to be replaced every few years. Prerequisites to keep a desso pitch in good order is decent drainage and irrigation and probably undersoil heating. Maintenance cost is similar to a grass pitch but reduced as it doesnt wear as much.

County, Dragons and Newport RFC dont have those funds. County and Dragons wouldnt spend that kind of money on a ground they dont own even if they had the money.
[quote][p][bold]Pianoman42[/bold] wrote: I think it is very, very dangerous to have had all these postponements, and continuing, and not to acknowledge that replacing the pitch with a Desso pitch was the way forward. I have seen the Liberty stadium this season. Fantastic. Do they have postponements? No. Does their team and management have to endure this continuing frustration? No. I will keep on banging on about this. So please, in the close season, just do it. I hope that it is not a matter of finance, but if it is, I need say no more.......[/p][/quote]Maintenance of a grass pitch is around £85k per year. A Desso pitch (grass with 3% plastic spikes) costs £250-500k. It has to be replaced every few years. Prerequisites to keep a desso pitch in good order is decent drainage and irrigation and probably undersoil heating. Maintenance cost is similar to a grass pitch but reduced as it doesnt wear as much. County, Dragons and Newport RFC dont have those funds. County and Dragons wouldnt spend that kind of money on a ground they dont own even if they had the money. NakedDancer

6:57pm Tue 11 Feb 14

Pianoman42 says...

NakedDancer wrote:
Pianoman42 wrote:
I think it is very, very dangerous to have had all these postponements, and continuing, and not to acknowledge that replacing the pitch with a Desso pitch was the way forward. I have seen the Liberty stadium this season. Fantastic. Do they have postponements? No. Does their team and management have to endure this continuing frustration? No. I will keep on banging on about this. So please, in the close season, just do it. I hope that it is not a matter of finance, but if it is, I need say no more.......
Maintenance of a grass pitch is around £85k per year. A Desso pitch (grass with 3% plastic spikes) costs £250-500k. It has to be replaced every few years. Prerequisites to keep a desso pitch in good order is decent drainage and irrigation and probably undersoil heating. Maintenance cost is similar to a grass pitch but reduced as it doesnt wear as much.

County, Dragons and Newport RFC dont have those funds. County and Dragons wouldnt spend that kind of money on a ground they dont own even if they had the money.
I don't understand. Why couldn't the chairman pay for it? What's the problem?
[quote][p][bold]NakedDancer[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Pianoman42[/bold] wrote: I think it is very, very dangerous to have had all these postponements, and continuing, and not to acknowledge that replacing the pitch with a Desso pitch was the way forward. I have seen the Liberty stadium this season. Fantastic. Do they have postponements? No. Does their team and management have to endure this continuing frustration? No. I will keep on banging on about this. So please, in the close season, just do it. I hope that it is not a matter of finance, but if it is, I need say no more.......[/p][/quote]Maintenance of a grass pitch is around £85k per year. A Desso pitch (grass with 3% plastic spikes) costs £250-500k. It has to be replaced every few years. Prerequisites to keep a desso pitch in good order is decent drainage and irrigation and probably undersoil heating. Maintenance cost is similar to a grass pitch but reduced as it doesnt wear as much. County, Dragons and Newport RFC dont have those funds. County and Dragons wouldnt spend that kind of money on a ground they dont own even if they had the money.[/p][/quote]I don't understand. Why couldn't the chairman pay for it? What's the problem? Pianoman42

7:52pm Tue 11 Feb 14

Thomas O'Malley says...

Pianoman42 wrote:
NakedDancer wrote:
Pianoman42 wrote:
I think it is very, very dangerous to have had all these postponements, and continuing, and not to acknowledge that replacing the pitch with a Desso pitch was the way forward. I have seen the Liberty stadium this season. Fantastic. Do they have postponements? No. Does their team and management have to endure this continuing frustration? No. I will keep on banging on about this. So please, in the close season, just do it. I hope that it is not a matter of finance, but if it is, I need say no more.......
Maintenance of a grass pitch is around £85k per year. A Desso pitch (grass with 3% plastic spikes) costs £250-500k. It has to be replaced every few years. Prerequisites to keep a desso pitch in good order is decent drainage and irrigation and probably undersoil heating. Maintenance cost is similar to a grass pitch but reduced as it doesnt wear as much.

County, Dragons and Newport RFC dont have those funds. County and Dragons wouldnt spend that kind of money on a ground they dont own even if they had the money.
I don't understand. Why couldn't the chairman pay for it? What's the problem?
Why would the Newport County chairman spend money on a ground they dont own ?. Aside from that why would he or anyone donate millions for no financial return ? Mr Scadding has already loaned the club a sizeable amount interest free to restructure debt. His personal wealth wouldnt stretch to that regular investment (not that his finances are anyones business) and he has always said (righly) he won't bankroll the club as thats not a sustainable model. Its unrealistic - few clubs in the premier have a Desso pitch and I doubt any clubs outside premier league have, let alone league 2.
[quote][p][bold]Pianoman42[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]NakedDancer[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Pianoman42[/bold] wrote: I think it is very, very dangerous to have had all these postponements, and continuing, and not to acknowledge that replacing the pitch with a Desso pitch was the way forward. I have seen the Liberty stadium this season. Fantastic. Do they have postponements? No. Does their team and management have to endure this continuing frustration? No. I will keep on banging on about this. So please, in the close season, just do it. I hope that it is not a matter of finance, but if it is, I need say no more.......[/p][/quote]Maintenance of a grass pitch is around £85k per year. A Desso pitch (grass with 3% plastic spikes) costs £250-500k. It has to be replaced every few years. Prerequisites to keep a desso pitch in good order is decent drainage and irrigation and probably undersoil heating. Maintenance cost is similar to a grass pitch but reduced as it doesnt wear as much. County, Dragons and Newport RFC dont have those funds. County and Dragons wouldnt spend that kind of money on a ground they dont own even if they had the money.[/p][/quote]I don't understand. Why couldn't the chairman pay for it? What's the problem?[/p][/quote]Why would the Newport County chairman spend money on a ground they dont own ?. Aside from that why would he or anyone donate millions for no financial return ? Mr Scadding has already loaned the club a sizeable amount interest free to restructure debt. His personal wealth wouldnt stretch to that regular investment (not that his finances are anyones business) and he has always said (righly) he won't bankroll the club as thats not a sustainable model. Its unrealistic - few clubs in the premier have a Desso pitch and I doubt any clubs outside premier league have, let alone league 2. Thomas O'Malley

8:06pm Fri 7 Mar 14

grumpyandopinionated says...

Pianoman42 wrote:
I think it is very, very dangerous to have had all these postponements, and continuing, and not to acknowledge that replacing the pitch with a Desso pitch was the way forward.

I have seen the Liberty stadium this season. Fantastic.

Do they have postponements? No.

Does their team and management have to endure this continuing frustration? No.

I will keep on banging on about this.

So please, in the close season, just do it.

I hope that it is not a matter of finance, but if it is, I need say no more.......
I can not belive that you could even attempt to compare liberty stadium with rodney parade. For a start it's a premier league ground and secondly it was a new build and no doubt the things that need to be done with rodney parade would have been done when it was built.
[quote][p][bold]Pianoman42[/bold] wrote: I think it is very, very dangerous to have had all these postponements, and continuing, and not to acknowledge that replacing the pitch with a Desso pitch was the way forward. I have seen the Liberty stadium this season. Fantastic. Do they have postponements? No. Does their team and management have to endure this continuing frustration? No. I will keep on banging on about this. So please, in the close season, just do it. I hope that it is not a matter of finance, but if it is, I need say no more.......[/p][/quote]I can not belive that you could even attempt to compare liberty stadium with rodney parade. For a start it's a premier league ground and secondly it was a new build and no doubt the things that need to be done with rodney parade would have been done when it was built. grumpyandopinionated

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