U's chief explains reason for decision

COLCHESTER United's new chief executive, Steve Bradshaw, explained why the U's did not opt for under-soil heating when they moved to their new Weston Homes Community Stadium last summer.

Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United's new chief executive, Steve Bradshaw, explained why the U's did not opt for under-soil heating when they moved to their new Weston Homes Community Stadium last summer.

Saturday's scheduled home match against Tranmere Rovers became the first senior fixture to be postponed at the U's new home. Referee Gavin Ward officially called off the match, due to a frozen pitch, at 1.45pm.

“Under-soil heating was an option, but it would have cost half-a-million when we were looking at it. They were finances that we did not have,” explained Bradshaw, who succeeded Marie Partner as the new chief executive in November.


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“The Football League also seem to have gone away from under-soil heating as a concept, and suggest that no new Football League clubs bring it in.

“Of course I'm very disappointed that this game could not be played. Both teams were in the top half of the division, and there was a chance to use this as a springboard for the play-offs.

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“It's always frustrating when a match is called off so late in the day, and that many supporters had a fruitless journey. But the safety of the players is always paramount, and it's right that the referee's decision should be based on that.

“David Blacknall (head groundsman) has been groundsman-of-the-year in the past, and he will be up for it again in the future. He said it was a border-line decision, but it is the referee's call and you have to go with it. There was an awful lot of late call-offs,” added Bradshaw.

In fact, only one of the scheduled five League One games beat the weather on Saturday - Huddersfield shared a 1-1 home draw with Oldham.

United remain in 11th spot, a healthy nine points clear of the relegation zone, but still a distant 10 points adrift of the play-offs. They return to action at second-placed MK Dons next Saturday.

Bradshaw continued: “We have a brand new pitch and it's very firm. It's not just made up of grass, but fibre-sand as well, and with all the frost it made the surface very hard. But a recent observation awarded the pitch four-and-a-half marks out of five.

“It would have been an �100,000 investment for covers all over the pitch, but that's only effective down to minus four, and I believe that it was colder than that overnight.

“The referee had an inspection at 12pm, when he expressed his concern about the pitch. He looked at it again at 1pm, but Tranmere did not want him to make a final decision until they were there.

“We're terribly sorry for the fans inconvenienced,” added Bradshaw.

Experienced groundsman Blacknall insisted: “All I will say is that I reckon it's the closest call he's (the referee) ever made in his life.”

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