From youth games to Sunday Morning matches to Step 1, these are tough times for non-league clubs during this spate of postponements because of waterlogged pitches. Needham boss Mark Morsley slams Ryman League for ‘lack of flexibility’
- Credit: IAN BURT
Needham Market boss Mark Morsley is spitting feathers at what he perceives as the Ryman League’s lack of flexibility in helping his team to get games played.
Needham Market – like many clubs – are suffering as games are called off because of waterlogged pitches.
And many of this weekend’s matches, including Needham’s clash with Waltham Forest in Ryman North, are already in doubt.
However, in an attempt to get the game played, the Marketmen were prepared to ‘switch’ the game to Waltham – thus sacrificing home advantage.
But as the two teams have already played at Waltham in a league game this season, that request was refused.
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“It’s a total lack of support as far as I’m concerned by the League and I’m not impressed,” fumed Morsley.
“We haven’t had a home game since December 14 but our contracted players, just like other contracted players at other clubs, continue to get paid.
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“In fact contract or not, all our players continue to get paid.”
Kellie Discipline, League secretary at the Ryman League said: “Yes, we had a request from Needham to switch the game. The League considers all requests for games to be switched but only in exceptional circumstances will we allow it.
“Because of the weather, we would have allowed this, but Waltham Forest and Needham Market have already played each other at Waltham in December and so we won’t allow them to play that match again.”
The current spate of postponed games is causing headaches for non-league football clubs up and down the country.
And it’s having an effect whatever level of non-league you are at.
Youth games and Sunday Morning matches might not be the most high-profile of non-league, they still need to be played to get divisions completed, promotion and relegation places determined.
And while youngsters and Sunday Morning players are likely to be able to fit in a Tuesday or Thursday night in April to get the games played, spare a thought for the poor fixture secretaries – as well as the secretaries of the clubs – who are trying to co-ordinate all the postponements.
But it’s further up the pyramid things can start to get a bit more uncomfortable.
It’s no secret that most, if not all, players are paid to play at Step 5 (equivalent of the Thurlow Nunn Premier), and plenty are given a few bob at Step 6.
Revenue is required not just to pay the electricity bill for the floodlights, but also to pay the players.
And the further up the pyramid you go, the more that expense mounts up.
I spoke to Andy Crisp, the Leiston chairman. At Step 3 Ryman Premier the Victory Road side have plenty of expense, on and off the pitch.
“Running a club at this level is hard enough on its own,” said Crisp.
“Additional costs, without your turnstiles clicking is no fun. We have had two big games recently postponed. They will be re-arranged later in the year, but I know now we won’t get the crowds we would have done if those games had been on a Saturday.
“How many Margate fans are likely to come to us from Margate on a Tuesday night in April?”
Meanwhile there is cheerier news from the Essex coast at Brightlingsea.
The FA Vase last 16 club haven’t lost many games this season to the weather, especially on their North Road pitch, where a sand base is helping get rid of the water.
Chairman Terry Doherty, who is proudly co-ordinating Regent’s FA Vase fifth round tie at Dunston UTS in two weeks – “we have two coaches of fans going already” – acknowledges his club is fortunate.
“To be honest we have had little trouble with our pitch,” he said.
“If you remember our last round Vase game against Bodmin was one of the only ones to take place in Essex because of our pitch.
“Admittedly we have one or two treks to make on Tuesday nights to get games played and it’s a long way for part-time players to go on a midweek night to say Kirkley & Pakefield from Brightlingsea.”
With little sign of a dry interlude, matches look set to continue to fall victim to the weather.
It’s going to be a long season.