Make way for the Lions


Local soccer players have been given the boot to make way for the Lions.

The British and Irish rugby heavyweights arrive in Queenstown next month for two days ahead of the third and final Test against the All Blacks on July 8.

Before training can kick off, the Events Centre main pitch needs a touch-up to meet the Lions’ specifications. The work leaves Queenstown Rovers’ men’s, women’s and junior teams playing on the back pitches – with limited lighting.

Coach Jamie Whitmarsh says the disruption at the council-run facility is annoying.

“I understand why they are doing it but it doesn’t help us.

“The Lions have told the Events Centre which pitch they want and that is outside their control.

“But that means we are directly impacted and it is right in the middle of our season.

“Are we happy about it, no, but there is not much we can do about it.

“We train under [flood]lights every Tuesday and Thursday but we don’t have the light now, that is the main problem we have got.

“The temporary lighting just isn’t sufficient for us, it is not a safe environment … we are on a smaller pitch with sub-standard lighting.

“It just doesn’t work.”

City Hall sport and recreation boss Simon Battrick admits they’ve had to juggle a few things after signing on the dotted line last week.

Council staff reallocated practice pitches and put in temporary lighting towers and goal posts.

They’ve also moved the pitch across a little to help with drainage.

However, he isn’t sure if the area will be fenced off during the Lions training sessions.

“We have discussed a number of different options for them around what they wish to do and we have also asked them about open training or other engagement opportunities.

“Their statement at the minute is ‘well, I guess it depends where we are at in the series and how important the final [game] is’.”