These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

WASH OUT

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Kings Lynn Town on Saturday 14th April 2018. We drew 2-2 in front of 822.
We all get a little too obsessed with the weather but for non league supporters, finger aching from constant refreshing of twitter to see if a game is on, has become far too commonplace this season. For too many lower league clubs this season has literally been a wash-out with the added splash of white to add to the backlog. Of course there's a solution to this and it's one that Slough Town chairman Steve Easterbrook said was a no brainier at the time when our ground was being planned – artificial pitches. In an ideal world we would all love to play on grass, but the world and climate is changing and football clubs need to maximise their one unique selling point - their pitch - if they are able to compete.
The flip side of Slough having no home games called off, has meant that this is just the second time Slough have played at home in the past month with nine away games! From Weymouth to Kings Lynn, Frome to Bishop's Stortford that's a hell of a lot of travelling for part-time players and seriously expensive for supporters. So fair play to the Rebels who have still travelled in numbers despite adversity. Kieron's train taking so long to get to Weymouth he was forced to drink from the toilet bowl while Swindon Steve decided it was more fun to travel on the Slough coach to Weymouth than go direct from Swindon, getting back so late on the coach he stayed overnight in a Slough hotel! That's dedication (or insanity). Slough supporters said they could see their reflections in the puddles on the Dunstable pitch. We got a game in a snow storm at Bishop's Stortford and these matches would have probably been called off earlier in the season, but I heard that refs have been told to take a more pragmatic approach if we want this season to end before the new one starts.
I'm thinking of Biggleswade when the game was called off by the ref as the supporters coach was arriving and when both managers wanted the game to go ahead. Surely there can be some sort of waiver when this happens when both managers disagree with the ref to overrule him.
In fact I’m in total agreement with TalkSport pundit and non league champion Tony Incenzo who wrote “Such late postponements have been commonplace this season. They are particularly unfair on the away teams’ players and fans, who may have taken time off work and travelled long distances at great personal expense.” His suggestions to eradicate the problem are :
  • In times of bad weather, a pitch inspection must take place by a qualified referee before the away team and supporters set off.
  • This inspection should also fully take into account the weather forecast.
  • If there is any doubt whatsoever about the game taking place, call it off there and then.
  • No postponement should be allowed after this cut-off point unless there is a huge deterioration in the pitch condition that wasn’t envisaged by the earlier weather forecast.
It would also help if the football authorities were more interested in investing in pitches rather than punishing clubs for not having a new stand they will never fill.
The FA is letting some leagues extend the season but some like the North West Counties League which has had 357 postponements so far this season are not happy with the small extension. “The League is disappointed with the FAs decision not to extend to Saturday 12th May given the recent poor weather, as this will impact the League, its clubs and the staff, players and volunteers.” One of their clubs 1874 Northwich are only halfway through the season thanks to postponements and getting to the semi-finals of the FA Vase. Having so many games called off also seriously threatens clubs finances.
The fixture pile-up is not helped by too many games. A good cup run and it gets worse. Does anyone care about League Cups? Can't the earlier rounds of the Berks and Bucks be played pre-season? It's good to see that the re-organisation at our level will mean less league games to play and more local derbies.
Artificial pitch crunch time could come if Sutton or Bromley win promotion to the Football League. “We went one winter without being able to play a home game for seven weeks,” says Sutton chairman Bruce Elliott. “Now our pitch is used by 800 players a week: first team, academy teams, ladies, disability teams. It brings a togetherness. Average attendances have increased [from around 700 to over 2,000]. It’s wonderful.” However Football League clubs are against artificial pitches. So the continued ban means if Sutton or Bromley get promoted they will have to rip them up. And if they don't, they will be punished by relegation to the National South. Blimey. I think someones been smoking too much grass.


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