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Non-league clubs facing fixture chaos
7:00am Friday 31st January 2014 in Sport
SYDENHAMS Wessex League clubs will soon have to start playing three games a week to complete the season in time.
That is the concern of fixtures secretary Ian Craig, as the poor weather continues to wreak havoc with the Wessex League schedule.
Premier high-fliers Sholing, who have only played half of their league games and are still in three cup competitions, and Fareham Town, who still have 24 of their 42 league games to play with three months of the season remaining, are the worst affected.
With more postponements expected this weekend, Craig fears another farcical end to the season. “Out of the last 124 scheduled games, 86 have been postponed,” he said. “Some clubs are going to have to start playing three games a week, on Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays. That’s the only way we’re going to get round it.
“I’m expecting another wipeout this weekend and we haven’t had any snow yet!
“The last month has been horrendous, beginning with a lot of postponements over Christmas.
“It’s the worst we’ve had in a short period of time and at this level, the FA will not allow games to be played beyond the last Saturday in April because there are promotion and relegation issues to sort out at the beginning of May.”
In future, Craig believes more games will have to be played during the first few months of the season.
“Clubs won’t be happy about it, but we don’t want to keep having situations like last season, when games were played on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for several weeks and players got injured as a result,” he said.
“If clubs managed to play 30 games before Christmas, that would leave only 12 to squeeze in during the last few months of the season.
“Maybe we could also look at reducing the number of teams in each league to 20 [from 22].”
Rod Sutherland, secretary of the Drew Smith Southampton League, fears that more clubs will cease to exist if the bad weather continues.
“One's found it so hard to maintain player interest they’ve had to withdraw,” he said.
“Players are getting fed up of gearing up for a game all week and then being let down by the weather.
“We’ve already had to cancel our supplementary cup competitions and there’s one team that’s only played four of its 18 league games.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the weather pushes more teams over the edge.
“Our season could be extended but the problem for some clubs is finding a venue in April and May, when pitches are often unavailable.”
The use of artificial 4G pitches was voted against by Skrill Conference clubs this week, but it is still an option for those City of Southampton Sunday League clubs willing to pay extra.
Secretary Hazel Andrews said: “We’ve allowed our clubs to play on artificial pitches, but the problem with that is the cost. The cheapest artificial pitch is available for £96 at Test Park, whereas it only costs £55 to hire a council pitch.
“But we’re not in as bad a position as last year, making the divisions a bit smaller has also helped.
“Adding an extra junior division has spread the teams a little more thinly, from nine teams to 11 in some cases, which makes a lot of difference.”
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