Worcester’s Sixways stadium is known throughout rugby union as the home of the Warriors.
But since 2016, the Aviva Premiership club’s impressive 11,500-capacity venue has also played host to local six-a-side football teams such as 1860 Worcester and Gangs of Dwight Yorke.
It’s only made possible by Sixways’ state-of-the-art synthetic turf Limonta Max S Turf playing surface.
Organised by Leisure Leagues, who run other Astro Turf leagues in the Worcester area, games cost £34 per team.
And it offers a stark contrast to the city’s other not-so-state-of the-art, litter-strewn astro turf pitches – this is a ground with history, character and status.
Set up in 2016 originally by Soccersixes, a successful first season paved the way for Leisure Leagues to continue it today.
Terrific feedback from players and organisers alike, it has been a great success in the City it would appear.
Miguel Passaro has previously played for Worcester City’s youth sides and sees Sixways as a great opportunity for all in the local area.
“For young and old, I just think it is an amazing opportunity to play in this kind of stadium.
“Me and a lot of the lads have been coming here for well over a year now and it’s just made us all want to get our boots on again.”
Replacing an injured regular on a soggy Tuesday night just off of the motorway to Birmingham, I began to get what Passaro was talking about.
1860 Worcester have been playing at Sixways since the idea’s inception, and on the night we came away with a 2-0 win against the mighty Makeshift Ballers.
Considering my distinct lack of fitness, this was a result that can be classed in the category of far beyond my wildest dreams.
‘One difference that was also noticeable between other Leisure Leagues I have played in before was the quality of refereeing’
What struck me most, as I bagged an okay goal, was that the surface was far superior to any other astro turf or 3G pitch I had played on before in the local area.
Being lucky enough to play on West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City’s 3G indoor Premier League-sized pitches as a junior, I found Sixways to be very similar in quality.
And when you consider that ‘Play on the Pitch’ tournaments in London, where adults and kids can often pay hundreds of pounds to play at a top Football League ground, £34 per team for a game seems a bargain.
Better facilities, better refs
One difference that was also noticeable between this and other Leisure Leagues I have played in before was the quality of refereeing.
Often with Leisure Leagues you can get some kid who doesn’t really want to be outside, texting whilst you take a corner, which can get frustrating.
So if you’d rather not find yourself shouting expletives at someone who is barely out of school, this is the league for you.
It was as if being in a top stadium forced the officials to take notice and act appropriately.
As the level of football rose on the pitch due to the playing surface, as did the standard of the officiating, it would seem.
A testament to community spirit
Worcester Warriors, though they have suffered relegation in the past few years, have recently stabilised themselves in the Aviva Premiership.
In stark contrast to the struggles of the city’s football club, the future of its professional rugby outfit looks to be a bright one.
Several high-profile victories in recent years have continued to lift the status of the club as they look to cement themselves as regulars within English rugby union’s top division.
Although it was reported before Christmas that the owners, Sixways Holding LTD, will be looking to sell the club after recently announced financial losses it should not pose major cause for concern.
After all, legendary owner and the man who took the club fully professional, Cecil Duckworth CBE, is still sitting president.
And as its venture into hosting six-a-side football shows, the club has a strong sense of community allied with a willingness to innovate when it comes to creating new revenue streams.
Welcoming the beautiful game into its oval-ball citadel is a win-win situation for club, footballers and the city alike.