The University of Bath has consistently been ranked as a top 5 sports university – reaching 2nd in both the Guardian University Guide and The Complete University Guide for 2019. So what exactly can a top 5 university provide you with? A dazzling Olympic sized swimming pool, a newly refurbished gym, performance packages with the latest technology in sports science including physiotherapy, nutrition, hydrotherapy – the list goes on. Bath has got you covered sports wise. What’s rather incongruous to this world class facility, is the completely unplayable pitch on the infield of the running track; a desolate 120m x 90m area covered in large holes, making it look like the remnants of a light meteor shower or a 100-hole mini golf course on steroids.
“the completely unplayable pitch […] a desolate 120m x 90m area covered in large holes, making it look like the remnants of a light meteor shower or a 100-hole mini golf course on steroids.”
In past years the infield has served as a useful pitch for training and matches for field-based sports teams, and even acts as the centrepiece during Varsity, where large crowds flock to cheer the mighty Bath against their rivals Cardiff Met. So it has been surprising to many that this year, no teams are allowed to use the pitch – not that they would want to given its current state. According to sources, the pitch was used for an equestrian event, and it is clear to see that no maintenance work has taken place since said event.
But what’s the problem? There’s plenty of other options to choose from – there’s the St. John’s pitches, Eastwood pitches and then there are the sand based Astro turf pitches, however, it has to be said, these tend to be more beach than artificial grass. You could also be shunned to the SULIS pitches away from campus, but these are quite popular with students, who often emphasise that the well-kept green space is well worth the walk.
So there are other viable options for teams to train and play on, but with the high quality talent and diverse range of sports present at Bath, it can be difficult to accommodate for the frequency and the type of training necessary. Take the football clubs for instance, who have four men’s teams and three women’s teams alone that each train four to five times per week. When this is only one-tenth of the field-based clubs present at Bath, it’s not hard to see where problems can arise allocating training space and times.
The #PitchPlease campaign appeared during freshers week, when returning students and new students alike stood in unison to address the ongoing issues of the infield pitch. Equally, some freshers were surprised to learn that the ‘world class facilities’ they were promised didn’t include a 3G pitch. It should be noted that most other universities, even those who aren’t sports based, have a 3G pitch. While some students have been busy campaigning and using the Pitch Please hashtag to raise awareness of the non-existent 3G, other students aren’t so enthusiastic. One rower explained her argument: “I don’t think the university’s main concern should be whether we have a 3G pitch or not. We [The rowing club] have had a lot of our funding cut this year, and I think if money is going to be spent, it should go towards subsidising the actual playing of sport, rather than where the sport is played, as we already have enough facilities”.
It will be interesting to see the progression of the #PitchPlease campaign, and whether the university will take a stance on it. In the meantime, a little TLC on that infield pitch wouldn’t go a miss…