Llanelli Town Councillors have turned down an application from a successful Llanelli football club to play their games at what one councillor described as a premiere ground. The item was discussed at a recent meeting of Llanelli Town Council held on February 7.
The ground has recently been used to host walking football, which has been a great success. The pitch is considered to be one of the best in Wales and has seen world class tournaments taking place at the Penallt facility including women’s football and rugby league games.
Councillor Ed Skinner who is on the Town Council’s Stebonheath Development Committee said that The ground was the ‘pride and joy of Llanelli’ and a ‘premier venue’ with a ‘top standard pitch’, which was ‘an asset to Llanelli’. The report from the meeting discussing the use by Evans and Williams Football Club highlighted concerns that the pitch would be overused. At present people pay a sum within their precept to cover the costs of the football ground. Questions have been asked in the past whether the facility is providing value for money and is maximising community use. The same can be said of the Parc y Scarlets stadium, which is predominantly used for rugby games for part of the year. Evans and Williams also applied to use that facility but were turned down.
Hugely successful: Evans And Williams
At the meeting on February 7th councillors considered a request received from Evans & Williams Sports AFC to ground share Stebonheath Park should they gain promotion to the Ardal South West League (Tier 3) as Stebonheath Park is currently the only facility in Llanelli that complies with the Football Association of Wales Tier 3 criteria. Without this agreement the club could not be promoted through the West Wales Tier system (copies of the letter together with supporting documentation having been circulated to members prior to the meeting). The Town Mayor (Councillor M.D. Cranham) reminded members that Evans & Williams Sports AFC, together with the current home football team at Stebonheath Park, Llanelli Town AFC, had previously given a presentation to members at an informal meeting where both clubs gave compelling evidence on why Stebonheath Park was critical to the development of their clubs. Following this presentation, at the request of members, the council’s Head Groundsman briefed members on the current condition of the playing surface and the possible outcome of having an additional home team play their games at Stebonheath Park. Having received the presentations along with the briefing from the Head Groundsman, members further considered the request received.
It was Proposed and Seconded that the request by Evans and Williams Sports AFC to play their home matches at Stebonheath Park be declined.
An amendment was Proposed and Seconded that the Council commission an Independent Report to ascertain whether it was feasible to have these proposed additional games at Stebonheath Park. It was felt that an independent view could provide some additional information that may help members in their decision making. Members were reminded that concerns had been raised during the presentation evening regarding the detrimental effect the Evans & Williams Sports AFC home matches could have on the condition of the playing surface since during the period 4th June 2021 and 31st January 2022 there were 29 matches played plus a Wales U21 European qualifier against Moldova, which also included limited training sessions on the pitch in the days leading to the game. There was also a 1-hour training session allocated for Greece Ladies in preparation for their qualifier against Wales which was being played at Parc Y Scarlets.
A desireable venue but underutilised claim some
By the end of August 2022 there will be an additional 20 matches which brings the total to 50 matches. This is without the Carmarthenshire League and West Wales Youth Finals which take place in April/May of each year. Members had been advised that even with this number, the Head Groundsman held concerns over the prolonged activity on the pitch and there was a need to undertake annual renovations to the pitch during the close season. This was difficult to calendar, however, small renovation works are carried out throughout the season and some larger works, such as the recent sand banding, are undertaken in between the rugby league fixtures. This is only possible because their games are played during the growing season and are not reliant on a smooth playing surface.
Pitch Perfect, Stebonheath Football Ground
The issue of the high number of games had been discussed in the presentation and Evans & Williams Sports AFC had suggested only playing those matches that needed to be played at Stebonheath Park. This would restrict the Llanelli Town Development team to only being able to play half their home matches at Stebonheath Park and there would be no guaranteed availability for local and West Wales cup matches. It was also stated that the club would ask for their cup matches to be played away thereby reducing the number of home games to 15 matches and not 19 as originally requested. It was also noted in the presentation that with two home football teams at Stebonheath Park advancement by either club’s teams may be restricted due to fixture congestion. It was hoped that the Llanelli Town AFC Ladies team would achieve promotion to a higher league that may require them to play their home matches at Stebonheath Park when currently they have only played one game there.
Following a request for a Recorded Vote, the Amendment was put forward first with the result is as follows: For the Amendment: Councillors S.A. Curry, M.P. Edmunds, D.Ll. Darkin, J.G. Prosser, W.E. Skinner, P.T. Warlow and J. Williams. Against the Amendment: Councillors M.D. Cranham (Town Mayor), T. Davies, J.S. Edmunds, L.A. Edmunds, C. Griffiths, S.J. Griffiths, J.E. Jones, A.S.J. McPherson, S. Najmi, S.L. Rees and B.A.L. Roberts. Abstention: Councillor N.J. Pearce. Unfortunately, due to technical issues Councillor N.J. Pearce was absent for the remainder of the meeting. The original Proposal was then put to members, with the result of the Recorded Vote as follows:
For: Councillors M.D. Cranham (Town Mayor), T. Davies, J.S. Edmunds, L.A. Edmunds, C. Griffiths, S.J. Griffiths, J.E. Jones, S. Najmi, S.L. Rees, B.A.L. Roberts and J. Williams. Against: Councillor M.P. Edmunds. Abstentions: Councillors S.A. Curry, D.Ll. Darkin, A.S.J. McPherson, J.G. Prosser, W.E. Skinner and P.T. Warlow.
RESOLVED – that the request by Evans and Williams Sports AFC to use Stebonheath Park as their home ground following promotion to Tier 3 be turned down.
The FAW’s policy on the Tier 3 Licensing requirements for the club to provide a ground to play on at that level. They are: Approved Capacity Level (A criteria) 1. The Applicant must have in place an approved capacity level, which is relevant and safe for all competitions. The minimum capacity for Tier 3 clubs is 500. 2. The Applicant must; a. have in place at least 100 covered seats, which are in compliance with criteria I.15. b. Or, for clubs seeking promotion to Tier 3 at end of the 2021/2022 season, they must have 50 seats in place on 30th April 2022 to meet the seating requirement for Tier 3 Criteria to be promoted and to remain in the League for the 2022/23 season. The same club would 15 FAW Tier 3 Club Licensing Regulations – Approved by FAW National Leagues Board on 10th August 2021 require the full criteria of 100 seats by 30th April 2023 to meet the seating requirement for Tier 3 Criteria to remain in the League for the 2023/24 season.
For many years Llanelli Town AFC have played their home matches at Stebonheath but they haven’t owned the stadium since 1977. The owners of Stebonheath since 1977 have been Llanelli Town Council. It’s a public facility that costs Llanelli Town Council taxpayers a lot of money.
The Llanelli Town Precept is £102.26
Costs: Steboneath Expenditure
Loss 2015/16 £41,416
The facility has been publicly run and possibly subsidised for 45 years for the benefit of one semi professional football club and a Rugby League Club. 4.2% of the precept is spent on Stebonheath. Even though Stebonheath is a public facility and the only facility in Llanelli that matches FAW Ground Criteria for Tier 3 and above, Stebonheath is classed as Tier 1, it is not available to any other club in Llanelli to hire should they gain promotion to the Welsh League.
Who is responsible for the losses?
Llanelli Town Council have a dedicated Stebonheath Development Committee made up of town councillors. They are Michael Cranham, David Darkin, Terry Davies, Matthew Edmunds, Lauren Edmunds, Jeff Edmunds, Chris Griffiths, John Jones, Sean Rees, Ed Skinner and Phillip Warlow.
All the above councillors apart from Matthew Edmunds either voted against this opportunity for an increased income stream or abstained. They also refused the opportunity for an independent pitch inspection.
Cllr Skinner said he agreed that the club needed to be developed with part of the ground being used for other activities. He said he would love to see Llanelli Town AFC in the Premier League.
Cllr Skinner said that he and the Town Council had been proactive in securing funding for the stand at the club and that he would love to see the club prosper given its history.
“I think we have to do some lateral thinking and look at ways the place could be used for community use,” he said.
“If people have ideas I am sure the council would love to hear from them but I won’t be standing for Town Council at the election in May. I will be standing for Rural and County Council,” he said.
Concluding Cllr Skinner said that he had asked the Town Council if they would give a remit to work with Evans and Williams to develop their proposal.
He said: “I want to see Evans and Williams have as much help as possible. If you have suggestions send proposals put it forward with town council. I would like to be constructive and move forward.”
He said that the council had asked the community development officer to liaise with Evans and Williams to look at grant funding.