Fixture backlog could force clubs to play matches

Football clubs across the county could be forced to play matches in a bid to rescue the weather disrupted season, league bosses have admitted.

Figures released by the Sussex County League show that up until the end of January, just 50.6 per cent of scheduled matches had been completed, leaving an enormous backlog of games left to play. Division 3 club Billingshurst, for example, have played just nine league matches since the season began in August.

And in the week the West Sussex Football League confirmed it would be scrapping all cup competitions in order to complete the season, the County League requested its clubs use ‘lateral thinking’ to get games played.

An e-mail was sent out to clubs this week requesting clubs consider the possibility of attempting to play postponed games 24 hours after the original fixture, where possible, while some clubs face playing three times a week for the remainder of the campaign.

All Sussex League matches must be completed by the end of April, but cup competitions can be extended into May, and acting chairman Steve Nealgrove confirmed such a move would be a possibility.

He said: “It’s a common sense approach. We have not made it a hard and fast rule, sometimes it is easier to get people to join you rather than push them along.”

Four of the ten matches scheduled for Tuesday night survived, and the league would have liked to have seen the postponed games played last night (Wednesday). “Could they have been played on Wednesday?” He added. “There is no harm in trying. It might have to become mandatory, but we hope clubs and officials will work together to get fixtures played.”

An alternative involves ‘reversing’ the fixture - as Ringmer and Peacehaven did in the John O’Hara Cup last month, but Nealgrove says he is sympathetic to teams losing both home advantage and revenue.

“It affects everyone from the kitman to those working on the gate. It’s a difficult situation,” he added.

The WSFL confirmed all cup competitions would be scrapped. Secretary Chris Bridges said: “We felt there was no alternative, the weather has beaten us.”