Fears Sheffield junior football club players could be BLINDED by 'ridiculous' amounts of dog poo left on field

A dog waste bin.
A dog waste bin.
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Concerned coaches at a junior football club fear children could be left blinded by 'ridiculous' amounts of dog muck left daily on their playing fields.

Volunteers at MDS Falcons say they have to spend up to an hour clearing the mess from their three pitches almost every day before training sessions and matches at Reignhead Farm Fields in Beighton.

They fear one of their dozens of young players or an opposition team member could be blinded if they accidentally fall into the faeces and contract a rare infection, which has been known to cause sight problems.

Team managers have gone to great lengths to urge dog walkers to pick up after their pets and use the three bins provided by distributing 1000 letters to nearby residents.

But they claim their appeal has failed to make an impact and are now resorting to pushing ahead with plans to fence off the pitches so no dog walkers can enter the area. The idea has been backed by 500 signatures on a petition.

Club fundraiser and volunteer Samantha Gear-Hollis said: "We genuinely fear a child could lose their sight if they fall into it.

"We have to clear about 50 separate patches every time before we train or play, it's ridiculous.

"And it makes us feel nervous because if we miss some and then a child becomes ill we would feel so guilty - but it's not really our fault."

She added that the club has six teams of boys and girls, ranging from under 10s to under 21s, and they play on the pitches several times a week. The well-used ground also hosted the Sheffield and District League cup finals for under 13s and under 14s boys in May.

Volunteers first noticed the dog fouling problem when they moved to the site in October last year and spent hours posting letters to nearby residents. But the problem still persisted.

The club has now raised a petition, which has got about 500 signatures, in support of their plan to fence off the pitches.

Samantha, aged 42, of Woodhouse, said she will submit it to Sheffield Council - which owns the land - next Friday.

She added: "We don't really want to fence it off, we want it to be open for all. But we need to do something, it is a serious health issue."

There are around 50 cases a year in the UK where young children fall ill through contracting a rare condition known as Toxocariasis.

Toxocara is found in the faeces of dogs and if accidentally ingested can cause sight problems.

Sheffield Council recently revealed it is not considering introducing new laws to crackdown on dog fouling - despite complaints about the messy issue almost trebling in the last five years.

Neighbouring Doncaster and Chesterfield councils both recently introduced a Public Space Protection Order, which bans dogs from entering enclosed children's play areas.

The filthy issue prompted 1, 398 gripes to Sheffield Council in the year to April 2017, compared with 515 in 2012/13.

But the authority confirmed there are no plans to introduce a PSPO and instead highlighted a raft of other measures in which it is tackling the problem, including employing two dog control officers.

A spokesperson for Sheffield Council said: “We are, sadly, well aware of this problem. We sympathise with the football club and appreciate their upset and frustration. Members of the club should not be having to pick up mess caused by a small minority of irresponsible dog owners, and it is simply unacceptable that they are put in this position.

“However, fencing in sports pitches – here and indeed across the city - is not necessarily the answer. Doing so would be unaffordable and would also restrict use of these open spaces to other users. Similarly, a Public Spaces Protection Order may not make any difference in tackling this issue, as these dog owners are already committing an offence in failing to pick up after their dog.

“This is not to say that we do not take the issue of dog fouling seriously. We do. We have increased the patrols from dog wardens at this site and have provided three dog mess bins, so there is simply no excuse for owners leaving their dogs’ mess on the field.

“We would also continue to encourage everyone to report occasions where they see dog-fouling offences taking place, so that we can take the appropriate actions and issue the related penalties to those responsible.”