Talking Sport: Time for non-league clubs to make a stand

Wet pitches like this one at Pagham in January have played havoc with the local football schedule  Picture by Roger Smith
Wet pitches like this one at Pagham in January have played havoc with the local football schedule Picture by Roger Smith

AT last, we are seeing some almost-uninterrupted Sussex League programmes now the weather has looked up, writes Jon Rose.

But with the recent postponements putting clubs behind on fixtures, is the real answer to move the season?

The FA seemed intransigent, wanting the league to complete the season by April 26, which would have meant some clubs playing three games a week, perhaps four.

Only on appeal did the FA relent, and now the season will finish on bank holiday Monday, May 5. Anyone involved will still be inconvenienced, but the men at HQ have the final say.

With other countries having mid-winter breaks, the argument for that here becomes ever stronger, even at grass-roots level. There is the problem of overlaps and clashes with local cricket clubs but perhaps co-operation between cricket and football clubs could see compromises.

Players are injured as much in non-league as in the professional game – but at this level, the player’s livelihood could also be affected. Referees come in for criticism when they call games off for seemingly-spurious reasons, but they have to take into account player safety as well as the basic condition of the surface.

The Sussex League has a surfeit of cup competitions – so should they look at playing these games in midweek only? Cups are an extra source of revenue, but that revenue can be lost, as it can from league games, once you factor in losses on wasted food, organisational costs and programmes for postponed games.

Non-league football is constantly under financial pressure not felt by pro clubs.

Yes, there are clubs who have suffered financially in the professional game, but how many of those examples were down to ‘chasing the dream’ with unrealistic risks taken rather than simpler reasons such as revenue lost from postponed games?

You only have to look at the plight of Arundel FC, whose ground has resembled a lake. It’s clubs like this who could benefit from a change in thinking.

Recent examples of the FA deciding arbitrarily to move clubs to different leagues – hang the inconvenience to the clubs involved – show that it’s time for non-league clubs to take a stand and push for change.

Agree or disagree with Jon? Email or tweet Jon at @paghamlions

Want to be a Talking Sport columnist for the Observer? Email to find out more.