Will we really see improvements?

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I WRITE in response to the article ‘New plan to upgrade Calderdale sports pitches’ in Monday’s Courier to show my dismay at its almost celebratory tone. At the time of writing, there has been no winner in this, but one definite and unfortunate victim.

In the incident in question it is a fact that the claimant Paul Zoledziejewski injured himself twisting in a rut at Shelf Hall Park on 14th September 2007.

It is also a fact that at Dewsbury County Court in March 2011 an order was given by a judge following two days of evidence, given by the claimant, fellow players (as witnesses to the incident and state of the pitch), the referee and council workers responsible for the upkeep of the pitch. The order was given as no-one from the council had taken ultimate accountability for the repair of that section of the playing surface and that the “attempted” repairs had been completed adequately.

“The move comes just days after successfully defending a claim for damages made by a footballer who was seriously injured after tripping in a rut at Shelf Hall Park. Dewsbury County Court ordered the council to pay £22,500 in damages, along with the claimant’s legal costs of £45,000 in March 2011. But last month the Court of Appeal decided that the original Order be set aside”

The fact is that the claimant Mr Paul Zoledziejewski had to withdraw his claim for the sole reason that he couldn’t afford the costs. After 4 and a half years it has also taken its toll emotionally. I state that the council has not “successfully defended the claim” and that the justice system has yet again failed one of its citizens, as the party scrapes a hollow victory that is not based on the strength of its argument, but the depth of its coffers.

Mr Zoledziewjewski now has to look forward to the rest of his life without the compensation rightly awarded to him. He has to consider his future employment options as a self-employed mechanic, with no money to retrain in a career more suitable, given his physical injury. He also has to look forward to the inevitability of future operations and at some point a plastic knee.

I played on that night and I count myself fortunate that I didn’t twist in that way, in that area of the pitch. I am fortunate to still be able to enjoy playing the game I have loved from the age of 6.

Reflecting on your report, it almost heralds a new dawn for sporting facilities in Calderdale, but this comes at a time when the numbers of teams playing in the Halifax Sunday League is currently at 38. When I started playing in 1999 there were 48 teams in the Halifax League and 16 in the Brighouse League (now engulfed by the Halifax League). That’s 26 less teams, at 15 players per squad that’s 390 less people getting regular exercise in 13 years. Most are now sleeping off their hangovers or continuing their Saturday night binges.

In actual fact the report states that “The council is ready to adopt a new strategy for improving outdoor sports pitches”, this new strategy appears to be devolving responsibility to community groups and therefore accountability and subsequent liability with it.

Are we really seeing a commitment to sports facilities in the future?

The report only mentions pitches, the council might want to look at the changing facilities (some that should be condemned) and its failure to adequately tackle the problem of dog-fouling. I also regularly see rubbish overflowing from the bins on Shelf Park and Savile Park.

My personal feeling is that the council will certainly look to mitigate risk more proactively but we will not see the improvements that the town needs.

No good has come from that incident in 2007 yet (which was found in a court to have resulted from negligence on the part of Calderdale Council). What is there to expect it to going forward?

Ryan Price