Investment helps fend off rabbits at Sidford football pitch

PUBLISHED: 11:00 16 March 2014

Some of the Sidmouth Junior Vikings who will benefit from the new fence

Some of the Sidmouth Junior Vikings who will benefit from the new fence

Archant

A plague of pesky rabbits digging dangerous divots on a sports pitch in Sidford have forced the district council to spend £8,000 on a fence to fend off the animals.

The authority wants to preserve the well-used fields to keep them safe – especialy for young users.

It has been thanked for the move, which could protect the career of the next Wayne Rooney.

Ian Peacock, manager of the Sidmouth Junior Vikings under-16s, said: “We don’t want anyone breaking an ankle – it could be a career-ending injury and it’s only a matter of time before someone is hurt.

“It’s a real issue. It would be fantastic if we could keep the rabbits off.” Ian said someone currently has to show up to the games an hour in advance with a bag of soil to fill the divots to keep the teams safe.

He added that it can be embarrassing when they host other players – some of whom react with suspicion when one of them trips on a rabbit hole – but the pitch has had a lot of investment from East Devon District Council (EDDC) and the Football Foundation.

“It’s great that we’ll be able to make more of the pitch but the weather is our biggest issue at the moment – we haven’t played a match for two months,” said Ian.

The Vikings have more than 270 members, who are the main users of the Sidford fields. An East Devon District Council spokesman said: “We know there is an issue with the divots and, as they are the only proper pitches in the valley, we wanted to take pre-emptive action to make the pitches as safe as possible to encourage young people to play sport.

“Last season we tried to fill and top dress the pitches but this showed limited success.”

Terry O’Brien, the secretary at Sidmouth RFC, said the team is planning to level and drain its neighbouring fields.

It will be looking at installing rabbit-proof fencing after it eased the problem at another of its pitches.

“Rabbits dig out holes which have to be filled in – sometimes they are deep enough to take an ankle out,” he said.

The rugby club recently won £40,000 of funding for its works from Sidmouth Town Council when it allocated £150,000 of Section 106 development cash.

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