Northern Ireland news

Ballymena football club's anger over stock cars on new pitch

A car on the new pitch at Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday. Picture from Twitter/Ballymena United FC
John Monaghan

AN Irish League football club has called on a council to be "held responsible" after stock cars drove over its new £250,000 pitch.

Ballymena Showgrounds, home of Ballymena United FC, is owned by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council which recently laid a new playing surface.

It leases the venue to both the club - which has postponed games until October to allow the pitch to settle in - and Ballymena Raceway.

During a stock car race on Friday, cars were pictured driving onto the grass.

Ballymena United's vice-chairman Don Stirling said the council "have to be held responsible".

"They can't keep cars off the pitch because if they veer off the track they have nowhere to go," he told the BBC.

"They've spent over £250,000 of ratepayers' money on it, there's a new sprinkler system as well. They can't have cars driving over it."

In January, club manager David Jeffrey criticised race organisers after the pitch was damaged on New Year's Day.

However, Aubrey Arbuthnot, who runs Ballymena Raceway, said he was "fed up" with the criticism.

"We had 12 races last night... only two cars went off the track in separate incidents," he said.

"I laid down the law to the drivers about what would happen if they went on the pitch. The driver who went off, he was spun off by someone else - he's completely innocent."

The council said it was "deeply disappointed" by the damage and remedial works were being carried out.

"The measures put in place to protect the new surface at the venue were inadequate for last night's event," it said.

"We are considering a range of measures to minimise the risk of damage to the surface as a matter of urgency."

Ballymena United FC said the council "must be held responsible" for the damage. Picture from Twitter/Ballymena United FC

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