Sunday, 17 January 2016


Pewsey Vale. Dangerous.
There have been many postponements recently. There always are at this time of the year. You hear various influential people calling for a winter break, but what if we had a month off during December and January and the weather was fine? It can rain non-stop for a month at any time of the year now that the climate has changed. Three years ago, we had frozen pitches in March. So, unless football becomes a summer game, we should carry on scheduling fixtures all through the winter. In my opinion.

I have no problem with postponed games. If the referee decides that a football pitch is dangerous, he has to call the game off. Whether or not the ref can be sued if a player sustains a bad injury due to the state of the pitch, I don't actually know, but this is the excuse given in marginal cases.

There were many games called off on Saturday morning. I had planned on going to Hythe & Dibden for the first HAH report of 2016, but I heard through social media that the match had been postponed at around 10.30. The early postponement was good, as it prevented opponents Andover New Street from travelling and wasting their time.

When it got to lunchtime and I'd seen that Pewsey Vale's match with Ringwood Town hadn't been called off, I decided to change tack and go there instead. I intentionally arrived there early, parking up in Pewsey by 2.15, just in case there had been a late postponement - I could then have got back in my car and driven to nearby Devizes or Westbury to watch their one of their matches instead.

Gaerwen. Not dangerous.
And so, I was the first paying customer at Pewsey on Saturday. I chatted to the gateman and congratulated him on the state of the pitch. He said they'd worked really hard to get the game on that morning, and I could tell. If ever a pitch resembled a bowling green at this time of the season, it was Pewsey's on Saturday.

The players were warming up at either end of the pitch, happily passing balls to one another, one touch, two touches, pass, just like the professionals. The ref was chatting to his two assistants, but I thought nothing of it. I went in to the clubhouse and had a cup of tea. I wasn't charged, as the woman pouring the tea out said that the urn wasn't quite hot enough yet (it tasted great to me). On the table in front of the urn was a large pile of rolls, all ready for today's hungry spectators. I finished my tea and wandered outside. It was twenty to two and the players were still warming up.

I pootled slowly round the pitch, looking for potentially interesting angles to take photos from during the match. It was as I reached the far corner that I noticed one of the club officials picking up one of the corner flags. He then walked across the pitch and pulled out another. I thought it was odd, but it was ten to three and the players were still warming up.

Being a bit dim, the penny still hadn't dropped as I got back to the clubhouse and saw the gateman waving at me. He was giving me my money back - it still hadn't clicked what was going on. I asked if today's match was now free, but he replied (of course) that, no, the game had just been called off because the surface was too dangerous to play on.

It transpired that a tiny area by one corner flag was still a little frosty. This part of the pitch was so dangerous that Pewsey's team carried on with what had turned in to a training session down by this corner as Ringwood's players trudged off, disconsolate, having spent well over an hour travelling to this distant corner of Wiltshire. They'd wasted their time, I'd wasted my time, but mostly, Pewsey's club officials had wasted hours of their time working to get the match on and believing that they'd produced a perfectly playable surface.

Alresford Town. Not dangerous.
It wasn't the only game called off late on Saturday - Pompey fans had reached Birmingham by the time that Accrington called their game off at 10am. Bashley's players were boarding their coach to Cheltenham when the news came through from Bishop's Cleeve that their game had fallen foul of the frost.

Okay, these things happen. But, shouldn't there be a rule to the effect that if a game hasn't been called off by the time that the away team have set off, then it should go ahead regardless (unless conditions have dramatically changed in the meantime). Thus, at Pewsey, the away team's travelling time + an hour's changing and warming up time once they'd arrived would be about two and a half hours. The latest time that this game should have been called off (and communicated to Ringwood and the league) was half past twelve.

The contrast between Alresford Town's frozen pitch against Phoenix Sports last season; the mudbath at Gaerwen FC on Anglesey last weekend (where I'd been whilst taking my son back to university) and this weekend's bowling green at Pewsey was stark. Nobody got injured at frosty Alresford or puddle-strewn and muddy Gaerwen. On the contrary, the players just got on with the game and loved every minute of it. If refs really can be sued over injuries sustained on barely frosted pitches, then modern life really is rubbish.

In the meantime, Pewsey Vale have only played twelve league matches all season. They have another 22 to fit in with only 15 Saturdays left to go. And they're not the only ones suffering from this 21st century insanity.

I shall try again next week...

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