Long Melford: Row over height of goalposts after crunch football game

IT is normally refereeing decisions that give football fans and pundits much to debate long after the final whistle has been blown.

But when a Suffolk football team battling against relegation narrowly beat a promotion-seeking Essex team at the weekend it wasn’t the result that was the most surprising outcome of the day.

Instead, it was the size of the goals which has become the talking point.

Earlier this season Saffron Walden Town hammered seven goals past Long Melford in a Ridgeons League Division One fixture. And when the two teams met at Long Melford’s Stoneylands ground on Saturday few people would have bet on the home team pulling off a hard-fought 2-1 victory.

But shortly after the final whistle Long Melford’s victorious chairman, Colin Woodhouse, spotted something unusual going on.


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He said: “I was in the club house when someone said I should go back onto the pitch. When I did I saw Saffron Walden’s manager and a couple of other people from their club with a tape measure, measuring our goalposts and taking pictures. They were taking their time and the next thing I know they are complaining to the referee that the crossbar was an inch or so under what it should be. I couldn’t believe what was going on.”

Despite the referee dismissing the complaints and declaring that the goalposts were fine, the incident was far from over for the losing Saffron Walden side.

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Within a day, the club sent a four-page letter, which Mr Woodhouse has since seen, detailing their complaints about Long Melford’s woodwork and even citing a game that had to be replayed in 1893 between Saffron Walden and Heybridge Swifts due to a similar dispute.

“The irony of all this is that we were the team that hit the crossbar twice during the match,” said Mr Woodhouse. “On the whole we think Walden have acted very disrespectfully to us.”

He said the Ridgeons League had assured them there would be no need for a replay.

He added: “To be honest, bearing in mind we have had a tough winter, there is some slight undulation under the crossbar which has slightly altered the dimensions – but nothing significant and we will get it sorted.”

Saffron Walden’s chairman John Butchart said it was nothing more than caring about the standards of the game.

“It was spotted during the match that the crossbar looked low so at the end of the game we decided to measure it,” he said. “It was as much as five inches out in some places. We do not want a replay and there is no animosity from us. We were beaten on the day and accept that but we just want to make sure that we are all playing in a league of the highest standard and thought it was right to point this out.”

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