Safety nets not needed says leisure centre chief

The manager of Portlaoise Leisure Centre has dismissed customers’ concerns of a collision on their astroturf pitch, due to a lack of dividing nets.

The manager of Portlaoise Leisure Centre has dismissed customers’ concerns of a collision on their astroturf pitch, due to a lack of dividing nets.

Mark Roberts said the centre “wouldn’t be open” if it was not safe, rejecting local fears of a future collision between adults and children playing games with no dividing nets.

“Safety is our prime concern, I wouldn’t open if I thought there was a danger to anybody,” he said.

Admitting that the public had raised concerns with him, he said “sport by its nature carries a small risk”.

“We can all be scared of everything. We have gone through a risk assessment and we are happy there is a minimum risk. It is 100 percent safe and completely compliant,” he said, claiming that “people have been staying away from the leisure centre altogether” because of adverse publicity.

The centre manager says there have been lengthy discussions over the nets.

Mr Roberts said that no other pitch has a curtain system, and there is “no automatic system” of rolling nets.

Calls for new nets have been made repeatedly by Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald at council meetings since January, on behalf of concerned locals.

She is “disappointed” at the lack of a solution.

“A lot of people have contacted me. I am going to continue to pursue this, and research other centres to find a solution, I would like to think there is one,” said Cllr Fitzgerald, adding that the centre offered “a fantastic service”.

The original nets are “damaged beyond repair”, while it is understood that their weight was straining the metal wires holding them up, with fears for staff’s safety while rolling them back. The FAI wanted them permanently removed.

Cllr Willie Aird, chairman of Portlaoise Municipal District and chair of the Board of Management of the leisure centre, declined to comment.