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Bad weather threatens cricket crisis
8:46am Wednesday 20th March 2013 in Sport
THE miserable wet weather is throwing south coast grass-roots football into chaos – with cricket set to follow.
Many of the region’s main adult football leagues are either having to extend their season or cram unwanted double header fixtures in to complete the games on time. And local recreational cricket is facing a second summer of crisis after incessant heavy rain has totally waterlogged grounds across the area.
Totton & Eling’s ground at the Linden Oval is one of the worst affected, with the outfield submerged in six or seven inches of water in some parts.
“It probably hasn’t stopped raining for the past 13 months and, with pre-season friendlies due to start in mid-April, it’s a very worrying time for all clubs,” said Totton Sports Club manager Simon Preston.
A staggering 92 matches in the ECB Southern Electric Premier League alone were called off last summer, with the Hampshire League – the largest recreational club competition in the country – hit even harder.
“As far as the Linden Oval is concerned, we are looking to get some remedial drainage in by early April, but realistically we need a month’s worth of dry weather – and very soon too.”
Lack of cricket in 2012 led to numerous clubs being plunged into financial trouble, simply through the absence of match fees and bar income.
It also led to players – particularly youngsters – losing interest in cricket and finding alternative recreational interests in the summer months.
And it’s not just local football that is feeling the brunt of the dismal weather.
The Sydenhams Wessex Football League will have a fixture backlog if more games are postponed this weekend.
Only two matches were played on Saturday, while five of the nine scheduled for last night went ahead.
But with more heavy rain forecast for the next two days, Wessex fixtures secretary Ian Craig admits he may have a problem fitting in many more postponements.
He said: “At this moment in time I haven’t had to use the spare week and am still slotting games in as and when, so we haven’t got a problem as things stand and we aren’t pushing the panic button yet.
“It’s only teams who have had good cup runs – like Newport (IoW), Blackfield & Langley, Christchurch and Alresford – who are behind.
“But we may have a problem if we lose a few more on Saturday.”
Blackfield still have 13 of their 40 league games left to play, while Alresford have 11 left – and the latter also have three cup finals to fit in as well!
Higher up the pyramid, Sholing’s Southern League game at home to Bridgwater on Monday was rained off.
That left them with 14 games – a third of their entire league season – to cram in between now and the end of April. Meanwhile, The City of Southampton Sunday League – the biggest adult Sunday League in the area – was due to finish its season by the end of April.
But last weekend’s virtual washout has ensured they will now almost certainly finish by the second weekend of May.
Hazel Andrews, from the CoSSL, said: “The council are keeping a lot of their pitches open for us for an extra two weeks – mainly those that don’t have cricket played on them.
“Some of our clubs are some way behind in their fixtures, but mainly the ones that are still in the cups.
“A few years ago we had some clubs that didn’t complete their fixtures, but we should be okay this season.”
The CoSSL certainly won’t be attempting to ease any fixture congestion by organising double headers.
“We don’t believe in them,” Andrews insisted.
“We think it’s completely unfair, because if a team has a weakened side on the day they will lose both games.
“Also, if someone gets sent off in the first game, they are free to play in the second and it might all kick off again.”
The Southampton & District Sunday League have been forced to put their cup finals back a fortnight due to the bad weather.
And press secretary Greg Dickson admits some clubs will be forced into playing evenings and double headers.
“I know the City of Southampton Sunday League don’t like double headers, but we find they work for us,” said Dickson.
“Some clubs will have to play evenings as well.
“Roll Call are the most behind, because they have had a good season in the cups.”
As revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo, the Drew Smith Southampton Football League are having to bring in some double headers in order to get all their games played on time.
The Hampshire FA have also been hit by the bad weather.
They have twice been forced to postpone three Saturday Youth Cup finals at their Winklebury Complex in Basingstoke due to rain.