FOOTBALL and cricket clubs could be forced to play their home fixtures off the grass pitches at Recreation Park after the surfaces were churned up during North Berwick Highland Games.

Thousands of visitors attended the popular annual event on Saturday, with events ranging from pipe band championships to caber tossing.

However, its success has left the cricket pitch at the park unplayable, with Bass Rock Cricket Club moving their fixtures from the ground and youngsters with the town’s football club also left facing switching games from grass to 3G.

Large metal sheets were laid down for vehicles to drive over, rather than directly on the grass pitches.

But John Wellwood, chairman of North Berwick Football Club, feared pitches could be out of use for more than a month.

He said: “From a football perspective, the seven-a-side pitch is fine, remarkably, even though they parked cars all over it.

“The 11-a-side pitch has some very big gouges in it.

“Until the metal is moved, we will not know the detailed answer to the question [of how bad the damage is] but there are some really deep gouges in the middle of the park.

“It is grass so, yes, it will recover, but it will need some remedial work to recover, which I understand the council will undertake, but the pitch will be out of action for four or five weeks.”

The pitch being out of action will have a knock-on effect, with games being played on the nearby 3G surface, which is usually used by others during training.

The club has more than 300 members, ranging from pre-school age up to 17, with boys and girls playing.

Recreation Park, off Dunbar Road, is home to a number of sports clubs, including Bass Rock Cricket Club and North Berwick Rugby Club.

Graeme Armstrong, who is on the committee at Bass Rock CC, said games this week were being moved to Haddington and Dunbar, with the last home fixture this weekend being pencilled in for Meadowmill if the surface is unplayable.

He said: “A lot of cricket guys went down to Recreation Park and some were absolutely horrified.

“I saw it on Facebook and when I went down I saw there was a particularly bad bit just off the wicket but some is not too bad.

“I was probably cup half full where others were cup half empty.

“What we are going to do if the weather remains good is we are going down on Thursday and Friday to try to do a bit of work on the pitch where it has been churned up.”

Mr Armstrong stressed the club were not against the Highland Games and the tourism benefits that the event brought to the town.

He added: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the Highland Games, but could it be moved somewhere else where it is not affecting hundreds of children and sport?”

Niall Grant, secretary of the town’s rugby club, said they were still assessing the damage at the park.

John Starr, president of North Berwick Highland Games, felt the day had gone superbly.

He said: “It was an excellent day. The weather stayed good until about 5.45pm when we got some showers but by that time the competitions were finished and it was only the prizegiving that was affected.”

Mr Starr estimated there were in the region of 8,000 to 10,000 people at the event.

He said that consideration had been given in the past to moving the event elsewhere but highlighted it cost too much to move it to East Fortune, where the Haddington Show takes place, and that moving it would mean it would no longer be in North Berwick.

He said he was not prepared to get into a fight with the clubs and added: “It is grass, it will grow back.”

A spokeswoman for East Lothian Council said: “We are aware of the combined impacts that the North Berwick Highland Games event and the recent wet weather have had on the grounds at Recreation Park. Our amenity services team has already begun assessing and planning the remedial works which will be ongoing, weather permitting.

“The council supports the wide range of uses at Recreation Park, including the Highland Games and the informal and sports use of the grounds.”