WEYMOUTH Cougars’ club chairman Andy Harris insists he has “no option” but to take on management of Weymouth’s Marsh playing fields in order to safeguard the future of the club.

With maintenance funding set to be cut by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to only enable activities such as dog walking and general communal activity, former professional Harris has intervened.

Ex-Liverpool man Harris, who has won league titles with Chester City and Weymouth, labelled the situation as a “predicament”.

He told Echosport: “I see it as a predicament because Weymouth and Portland Borough Council have cut funding.

“It was presented to us, as the primary users, that the pitches were just left and maintained as open space so they are suitable for dog walking and general communal activity.

“We have got 11 teams at the club with 200 players. If we don’t take this project on, the future of Weymouth Cougars is in doubt. This has come on our 25-year anniversary.

“We’ve had to liaise with solicitors and had to have discussions about everything like electricity and water. We have discussed everything. This is on top of our kids just wanting to play footy.”

Harris admitted he had become “embarrassed” to invite local teams to the playing fields and offered his sympathy for the ground staff currently in charge of maintenance.

“The playing surface has been absolutely shocking, which is nothing to do with the ground staff.

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“They take great pride in their work but they just haven’t had the funds.

“I’ve been embarrassed inviting teams to come and play on our pitch. There’s bumps and lumps, broken bottles and dog muck. As much as we can we will try to raise the quality of our pitches.”

Work needed at the Marsh includes cutting pitches, maintaining goalposts, painting white lines, renting playing surfaces and taking bookings for pitches – the latter a task Dorset County Council currently manages until handing over to the Cougars in 12 months’ time.

With the club now in need of funding to offset the massive predicted expenditure, Harris appealed to local businesses and volunteers to help fund and run the club.

“We have a huge outlay initially and we’re trying to get as much money together as possible.

“You only have to speak to anyone in the area and they know someone who has been involved with the club. Our future is well and truly at risk if we don’t make a go of this. I’m appealing for anyone who can help, even if it’s just volunteering as a coach.

“Any local businesses who can support us financially or with any knowledge of helping out in the area, the more support we can get the better.

“I know people talk about the health of young people and if we don’t provide football the only alternative is that they fall into bad habits,” he said.

Cougars have already opened a special project fund as they prepare to undertake the vast amount of work associated with the upkeep of the Marsh, and Harris said fundraising this year had already been a success.

He said: “We have managed to put some money together in a special project fund. We had a race night at Wellworthy’s and just had the soccer sixes tournament which did very well this year. We’re just ensuring that our teams and our club have a good quality pitch to play on.”