Latest News on the Artificial Grass Pitch at Hoppers

Date: 22 May 2016

Following the two recent club meetings, the plans for the new Artificial Grass Pitch (AGP) funded by the RFU have been progressing on a number of fronts. The club’s proposal to lease the first team pitch to the RFU for a period of 30 years to enable them to construct a 3G pitch was overwhelmingly approved by over 100 club members at the SGM. The management committee of the club were also mandated by the SGM to complete negotiations with the RFU on the lease, maintenance and management of the facility.

The RFU have formally submitted a planning application to Preston City Council for the construction of the pitch. This has a target date for determination of mid June. At the same time the RFU have gone out to tender via their framework agreement for the manufacture and construction of the pitch. The target date for the start of construction is August 1st with a completion date of October 31st. The club will need to play home first team games in September and October on pitch 2.

The club are also progressing with agreeing Heads of Terms of the agreement with the RFU. In addition the RFU are asking the club to run the AGP pitch on the RFU’s behalf. The club are working closely with the RFU to agree all aspects of the partnership.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions

Q – How does the RFU envisage that facility will be managed and maintained?
A – The RFU currently envisages the club will be paid a service charge to run and maintain the facility on behalf of the RFU. A centralised computerised booking system will be in operation. The aim of the service charge is to cover any additional staffing, utilities and other overhead charges that the club may incur. The RFU does not aim to make a profit out of running the facility but that it is cost neutral to them.

Q – What happens to any other revenue generated in food and drink sales at the club by the increased footfall at the club?
A – Any additional revenue the club can generate through additional food and drink sales is retained by the club in full.

Q – Is there any provision for added security to prevent anybody from playing at night?
A – The service charge could include additional security if the RFU will pay for it.

Q – Do we arrange public liability cover – who picks up the claims?
A – Liability is in the hands of the RFU on the pitch and in the changing rooms it is the Club’s responsibility. Currently the RFU pays the club’s public liability insurance premium anyway as part of the benefit of being part of the RFU. If there is a premium increase it will need to be covered in the service charge.

Q – Will there be a completely unobstructed view around the pitch or will there be high fencing around the pitch?
A – The fencing will be a similar height to the existing fence.

Q – What happens if there is a health risk in the future?
A – The RFU will give the Club the opportunity to break the lease and a similar opportunity is available for the RFU. If that was to happen there will be provision in the lease for a grass pitch to be reinstated.

Q – Is anything reserved to inspect the pitch during construction as drainage requirements around the pitch may compromise stand development in future? Lots of water will have to be drained away – is that allowed for?
A – The RFU procure the works through their framework agreement with pitch suppliers. The pitch supplier is responsible for appointing contractors to carry out the works and there are numerous checks in place during the construction project to ensure the finished product is of the highest quality. The scope of works allows for improved drainage in the specification. Drains around the pitch are likely to need upgrading and this will be picked up during the construction.

Q – The RFU can let the pitch to others but will it only be marked up as a rugby pitch?
A – Yes the pitch will only have rugby markings. When not used for rugby it could be let out for say 5 aside leagues but their pitches will be coned and movable nets put in place..

Q – Does the pitch get “iced up” to prevent play?
A – No it is still playable when the weather is frosty and normal pitches would be unplayable.

Q – Have we spoken to other clubs about the AGP?
A – Yes we have spoken to one of the other pilot clubs and we have spoken to Newcastle Falcons about their pitch and how it should be used. The feedback from Newcastle Falcons was extremely positive.

Q – How many hours will the club get per week to use the pitch?
A – The club will get 12 hours priority usage reserved for the club’s use. This will include 3 hours on a Saturday for matches, 5 hours on a Sunday for mini-juniors, colts and women’s training and matches and the rest on week nights for training. The RFU then will make the pitch available to the Local Rugby Partnership (LRP) which will include clubs within a 25 minute drive of the club. They will pay a concessionary rate. In the day the RFU will use the facility for schools and colleges. There will also be provision Community Social Responsibility usage. Finally some hours when not required for rugby (probably Sunday and Monday evenings) the pitch will be available to hire commercially to generate some income to cover the running costs. The club will have opportunity to book additional hours not used by the LRP.

The project is about making rugby available to a broader section of the community and growing the game. It is about getting other clubs to use the facility particularly in poor weather to keep continuity through the season.

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