Reading FC’s golf plan ‘not eco friendly’8th January, 2014 by Emma Williams
An environmental consultant and sustainability associate for the Golf Environment Organisation has warned that Reading Football Club’s decision to build training pitches on an estate that includes two golf courses could destroy biodiversity.
Last year the Championship football club agreed a deal to buy Bearwood Golf Club, which will see it build 17 football pitches there, almost doubling its current set up of nine pitches at a different location.
However, environmental consultant Tony Hanson has written to the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Program (EPPP), which could provide funding to Reading FC that will help with the move, to warn that there is a ‘potential environmental side effect’ of the plan.
“My understanding is that the funding provided by the Premier League under the EPPP is the main driver behind Reading FC’s desire to maintain their academy, which must relocate from its current site. My concern is that the EPPP will be responsible for the replacement of a biodiverse habitat with 17 football pitches that will provide no biodiversity at all.”
Mr Hanson said the proposed academy would be situated on a ‘UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Habitat’ – an estate of mixed woodland, orchards and some pasture.
“There are two golf courses on the estate, Bearwood Lakes, which is Golf Environment Organisation certified, and Bearwood Golf Club, which is in the process of achieving that certification,” he said.
“The estate provides a substantial and varied habitat, and although the golf industry has a historic reputation for a lack of environmental awareness, these clubs have put time, effort and money improving biodiversity and their environmental performance.
“I would hope that the EPPP was not intended to encourage football clubs to develop academies in locations that would have such a dramatic effect on the environment, but rather offer regeneration of more appropriate sites.”
A spokeswoman for the Premier League said Mr Hanson needed to contact the Football League as Reading, which was relegated from the Premier League last season just before it agreed the deal with Bearwood Lakes, was no longer one of its clubs.