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Monday 25th August 2014 ko 17.15

Welsh Alliance Division One

KINMEL BAY 2 (Luffman 32 Woods 48)

GLAN CONWY 2 (Orme 8 Fountain 18)

Att 221

Entry £5

Programme £1

Badge £3

So where you there? What did you see? What do you think? There’s a quite a story behind what happened, maybe you’ve heard some of it, maybe most of it even, but where this heads in the future is anyone’s guess.

We’d received an email a month or two before the event from the club saying that they were having problems with their Y Morfa leisure centre home. They’d moved there from their home village of Abergele to get Welsh Alliance ground grading, changing their name from Abergele Rovers in the process. We contacted the league, and spoke to the club and everything was resolved, or so we thought.

Chris received a phone call from the league on Wednesday afternoon saying the game at Kinmel Bay was off, but with no reason why. A barrage of phone calls revealed that the leisure centre had said the pitch was unplayable, an opinion the club disputed.

We have had late postponements before, snow at AFC Emley saw a quick volte-face to Atherton Colleries a couple of years ago, so we looked at the alternatives. A switch of game to Llanfairpwl’s old ground, Gors Field, was rejected by the league on grounds of the size of the changing rooms, and a trip to Llanllyfni (the opponents at Nefyn) would have seen us arrive too late for a game at a ground without floodlights. But for both Chris and I there was an overriding feeling that this was a game that could, and should be saved. The question was did the goodwill exist in sufficient quantity to make it happen?

It was handy that Chris was going to be in Wales the next day with the advanced party to collect room keys in Chester, and collect the programmes and badges to make up the packs that are now a staple of the organised groundhop. He arranged to meet both the representatives of the club, the league and the leisure centre. Contacting the leisure centre, meant going through the owners, the local council, whose officer commented, “If you can sort those lot out, I’ll put you on the payroll!”

It proved to be a well-observed comment as on Thursday at 4pm Chris walked into a meeting where the leisure centre had all but evicted the club from the ground, and neither they, nor the club were speaking to each other. The meeting was held on the centre circle on the offending pitch, with the club one side, the leisure centre on the other and Chris holding proximity talks between the two. The league cast an interested eye in the background.

The difficulty was “improvements” carried out by the club to the pitch in the centre circle and in one goalmouth, where grass seed and earth had been used to level and reseed worn areas. The leisure centre argued that the soil used contained aggregate and so made the pitch dangerous, which the club disputed.

With the leisure centre holding the right of veto over the pitch, it was clear that the game couldn’t be held on Kinmel Bay’s normal pitch, but there was another pitch approximately at right-angles to the first. Could that be used to at least get the game on? At that point the league got involved, as league rules insist on a barrier and permanent dugouts. They agreed to stretch a point and allow the ground to be treated as a new entrant, so temporary dugouts (in this case gazebos) and a roped off pitch would be the minimum requirements.

That created an additional problem, there was only enough space for the pitch, and not enough for spectators behind the goals, so Chris left the meeting with the game back on albeit on a different pitch, and with the leisure centre’s comment that the game would be abandoned if one single spectator stepped out of the one viewable side ringing in his ears. Petty yes, but with the game back on, and with the factions observing at uneasy truce, you can imagine we didn’t want to jeopardise things!

I remember Chris and I going for a beer after the Halkyn game and us agreeing that if the ceasefire could just hold for 2 hours we’d write the whole thing off to experience. And you know what, that’s pretty much what happened!

We arrived at Y Morfa just as the drizzle turned into torrential rain, with just about enough time for me to have a good look at the offending pitch before the monsoon came. Yes, there were sharp stones there, but enough for a postponement? Yes, and especially if you’re looking for an excuse to call off a game.

The great advantage of the leisure centre was the gymnasium provided excellent shelter from the rain before the game and during half time but during the game there was no hiding place from the heavy rain, ruining the enjoyment of what was a good, competitive game. The pies sold well, and Glan Conwy whose company we’d enjoyed so much on the previous Welsh hop will no doubt wonder how they failed to win.

The final whistle went, and we all dashed back to our cars and the coaches. Or so I thought, as when I went through the manifest it was obvious that half my passengers were missing. When a few minutes later they began to arrive, their stories made it clear that the ceasefire had well and truly broken down.

Firstly the club had failed to draw the raffle, we require that the draw takes place at half-time, but worse the raffle organisers had disappeared. Totally unacceptable, and I’d love to know who won the £50 first prize?

Meanwhile, Chris was having his own problems. He had the GroundhopUK cheque for the prebooked tickets, programmes and badges, but we need that cheque receipted, and the club officials were arguing amongst themselves as to who was going to bank the cheque, as one official had connections to the leisure centre, and the other doesn’t….

So we got the game on, and we all got wet. As I sit here and write this 10 days after the event, Kinmel Bay are still in existence, although they haven’t played since this game. It’s difficult to see how they can repair relations with the leisure centre (or vice versa) and their usual pitch looks out-of-bounds for the foreseeable future. I’d like to think the club might be allowed to see out the season on the second pitch then seek opportunities elsewhere, perhaps back at Abergele?

But was all the upheaval worth it? Perhaps that’s not an answer I can give as I’m too close to things. The rain didn’t help, one patron’s camera was ruined, but as organisers there’s two things you can’t influence, the quality of the game and the weather. I suspect the true value of Chris’ efforts will be if this time next year Kinmel Bay will still be playing at the Y Morfa Leisure Centre.

In the meantime, Chris Berezai is taking bookings as a marriage guidance councillor….. See you at the North Berkshire League hop on September 20th.


UPDATE Thursday 13th November 2014

It came as no surprise that Kinmel Bay FC were evicted from the Y Morfa Leisure Centre by the council’s management, in the days following our visit.

The Welsh Alliance gave them until the end of October to find a suitable replacement ground, and in the meantime Kinmel Bay played all their games away from home, apart from one cup game played at a neutral venue.

A ground had been found in Rhyl at Rhydwen Drive, Click here for the Google Street View of the ground, but this was deemed unacceptable to the League. So Kinmel Bay were invited to resign by the league on 7th November, although an appeal may be possible.

Looking back, the whole experience of taking the groundhop to Kinmel Bay was a painful one for Chris and I and it certainly stretched our organisational, and Chris Berezai’s negotiating skills to the limit.

However I have no regrets about working so hard to get the game on, after all a compromise is far better than no game at all, and in the final analysis, we did witness the final Kinmel Bay game at Y Morfa. Perhaps I’d have enjoyed it a little more if the weather had been better.

I’d still love to know when the raffle was drawn though!

UPDATE Thursday 1st January 2015

Kinmel Bay have been offered, and have accepted an offer from Llandudno FC to share the 3G pitch there until the end of the season.