COUNCIL chiefs called for a reduction in the number of matches played on the Halton Stadium pitch more than two months before Everton Reserves decided to leave for pastures new, writes SIMON DRURY.
In April, the Blues' second-stringers announced they would not be playing at the stadium next season following a long-running wrangle over the state of the turf.
The stadium is used by both Widnes Vikings and Runcorn FC Halton and Everton felt it was taking too much of a battering.
The switch to summer rugby with the Vikings' promotion to the Super League big-time means the pitch is in use throughout the year.
In June, drastic reseeding work was carried out to improve the pitch but a council report has revealed that the local authority was looking to cut down on the number of games played at the stadium well before Everton's decision to leave was announced.
The report to the borough council's Social Inclusion Policy and Performance Board, which was prepared back in March, reveals: 'Due to the present over-use of the pitch and adverse weather conditions, a number of Runcorn FC Halton and Everton FC reserve matches have been postponed.
'A considerable amount of remedial work has been undertaken on the pitch with a spring/summer reseeding programme pencilled in.
'The pitch cannot sustain the amount of games presently being played and the switch to summer rugby has not helped the recovery period required. This is a critical issue which is being addressed at the moment.'
The report also reveals Everton had complained about the quality of the playing surface earlier in the season and signalled their intention to move.
Runcorn's crowds last season are also called into question. Singled out is a home fixture against Lancaster City which attracted 114 spectators - with only 58 actually paying to get in - and generated just £304 in gate receipts.
In contrast, some Everton matches were attracting crowds of up to 2,400 if first-team stars, such as Wayne Rooney, were expected to turn out.