NON-LEAGUE WEATHER DEBATE: League extension or just roll your sleeves up and get on with it?

Bury Town chairman Russell Ward on a waterlogged Ram Meadow pitch

Bury Town chairman Russell Ward on a waterlogged Ram Meadow pitch - Credit: Andy Abbott

With the weather showing no signs of improving, non-league football continues to suffer with postponements and the resultant conundrum of how to fit a myriad of extra games in before the season ends. So, should the season be extended? Or should clubs just roll their sleeves up and get on with it? WILL RIDGARD gauges local opinion.

A host of non-league clubs have been affected by the wet weather conditions with game after game being been called off since the turn of the year, and pitches seemingly worsening each week.

There have been more postponements than most in the Ryman divisions and some people have called for the league season to be extended – notably Needham Market boss Mark Morsley and AFC Sudbury manager David Batch.

Prior to Tuesday night’s 2-0 success against Dereham Town, Sudbury had played just four league games in 2014 and, as a result, have a heavily congested fixture list to complete before April 26.

“In my opinion, the league really need to think about extending the season,” said Batch.


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“With all the cancellations and rearranged games, the backlog of fixtures everyone has to play before the ‘league deadline’ is just far too much.

“Something needs to be done.

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“I think clubs should come together and call an EGM because it’s getting pretty out of hand.

“The problem is that the league aren’t budging and that’s causing problems for all of us.

“Maybe if there were a few of us who raised the same concerns, something might happen and the league might run for an extra fortnight or something.”

Witham Town and Needham Market are also badly behind schedule and will have to play three times a week for much of the remainder of the season.

Indeed, Witham, who saw another home game postponed this week, still have half of their season’s games to play in little more than two months.

Outspoken Needham boss Morsley echoed Batch’s thoughts – his side having last played at home on December 14.

“Why hasn’t the season been extended?” he said.

“I think the people who run our league must be the only people in the country who don’t watch the news.

“I have to say I am astounded that the Ryman League have not looked at the bigger picture and extended the season accordingly.

“All that clubs like ourselves want is a level playing field, so how does playing Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday and then again Saturday suddenly become acceptable?”

However, although sympathising with the ongoing frustration, Ryman League president and chairman Alan Turvey dismissed the likelihood of an extension to the season.

“The clubs know the situation,” he said.

“The final games of the season already have dates, as do the play-offs and the play-off final. At the moment there is no thought to extend the season.

“Of course we are keeping an eye on the situation. We are keeping an eye on the situation every day and we don’t ideally want teams playing Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, but if that’s what it takes, then that’s what will happen.

“Most Ryman clubs would play Saturday and Tuesday anyway and most have high-level training sessions on Thursdays – some train even more than that.”

And with that in mind, some local managers have called for their peers to ‘stop whinging’ and get on with it.

Leiston boss Steve Ball said: “I’d rather play than train. I’ve read and heard some stuff Mark (Morsley) has said about extending the league.

“Listen, I agree that three games a week is a bit extreme, but if we have to play two (games a week) from now on in with the odd three-game week then so be it.

“We all just need to stop whinging about it, get playing and get it done.

“It’s raining heavily, but there are worse things in life.

“I’m sure it’s the same with Mark and all clubs at this level in that when you get players in to your club, you expect a commitment from them three times a week.

“And whether that be training or playing games, it doesn’t matter. It’s as simple as that.”

Bury chairman Russell Ward also agreed that clubs should roll their sleeves up, pointing to his side’s successful 2009/10 campaign where they had to experience a similar situation.

“We had to play Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday towards the back of the season when we won promotion into the Ryman Premier from the Midlands Division,” said Ward.

“On one occasion, I think we played on the 13th, 16th, 18th and 20th of March and won all four games.

“It was just a question of getting on with it and doing it.

“It isn’t logistically viable to get the league extended, it’s almost impossible. I just think it’s a case of rolling your sleeves up and getting on with it.”

One thing is for sure – there’s a lot of non-league action to come over the next few weeks.

What do you think? Should the season be extended? Let us know at mark.heath@archant.co.uk.

Ryman League games left to play

Witham Town 23

AFC Sudbury 20

Needham Market 20

Bury Town 16

Leiston 15

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