Is it time the National League had a proper discussion about last minute postponements and how to prevent them? Amidst a cost of living crisis and spiralling costs that impact both clubs and match-going supporters, the late pitch-inspection and postponement has never been a bigger frustration.
The determination to get fixtures played at any cost puts players, staff, supporters and facilities at risk.
As Yeovil made the trip to Barnet on Tuesday evening and temperatures plummeted below zero, the Bees were still pushing tickets and programmes up until about 5:25pm – and I fully accept that these were probably scheduled posts – before the match was postponed at 6pm after the referee inspected the pitch.
Barnet had tweeted that ground staff had been keeping an eye on the pitch throughout the day and it was only once the temperature dropped at 4:30pm that the referee requested an inspection. At what point do we start trusting ground staff with the decision making? We’re as guilty of it as anyone.
When Yeovil played against Scunthorpe in early-December, one end of the pitch looked like it was North of the Wall. The ground staff at Huish Park worked throughout the week to get the game on but should it have even been played?
With temperatures across England well below zero at the start of December, Scunthorpe travelled 258 miles to play out a dire 0-0 against a Yeovil side riddled with illness and injury – what was the point?
A week later, Yeovil hosted Dorking Wanderers, which was subject to late pitch inspection. Prior to that game the referees instructions included warming up in the frozen area of the pitch to help defrost it. Presumably infuriating the ground staff who work all year round to make the surface perfect for football. What damage does that do to a pitch? How much does it cost a few months down the line? Why’s it all getting a bit “we’ve all had enough of experts” in a field (ahem) that people work damn hard to become experts in?
Supporters risk long journeys to see their clubs, and on some occasions in treacherous conditions, when sometimes its blindingly obvious that things aren’t going to go ahead. At some point clubs need to be brave enough to make an early decision.
Snow covered Yeovil on Wednesday and temperatures aren’t forecast to get above 6 degrees before Altrincham make the trip to Somerset for Saturday’s National League fixture. Surely a sensible decision can be made more than 24 hours before kick off?
— Stuart Antell (@melon2711) January 18, 2023
I’ve no idea who’s at fault, if if anyone is at fault? Is it the referees? Is it the macho football culture, is it the packed calendar of constant football? Are there too many clubs in the National League, forcing clubs to cram in fixtures? Should professional clubs be playing in their county cups?
There has to be a solution somewhere that stops putting people at risk, can the organisations that run the game authorities find it?
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