Northern League to ask FA to extend season

Wet weather has decimated recent football fixtures.
Wet weather has decimated recent football fixtures.

Ebac Northern League chairman Mike Amos said they are to approach the FA in a bid to extend the current playing season.

The curtain is due to come down on the campaign on Saturday, April 23, but the wretched spell of wet weather, snow and ice has led to a deluge of postponements.

He said that if the FA say no to the appeal, some clubs will have to play at least three times a week.

Mr Amos said non league football is facing a crisis and it requires some fresh thinking.

“It’s certainly the longest spell of postponements because of rain as opposed to snow or frozen pitches that I’ve experienced, and there’s still quite a lot of the winter to come,” he said.

“We face a real crisis. Our league secretary, Kevin Hewitt, still has all the league fixtures scheduled up to April 23, but that will have to change after further games were called off on Saturday.

“We’ll overflow into the last week of April but then there are lots of league and county cup ties and some FA Vase business to fit in as well.

“A number of clubs haven’t kicked a ball since November 28, and the immediate move will be to ask the FA for an extension, I think until May 14, though in the past they’ve been reluctant to grant it.”

He continued: “In the longer term, and given the environmentalists’ view that very wet winters are here to stay, the game as a whole is going to have to look very hard at what needs to be done.

“Should fewer games be played by reducing the number of clubs in each division? Should the FA make more funds available for 3G pitches at our level, on condition that they’re available also to the wider community? Should health and safety issues be reviewed? Do we postpone games too easily?

“There are no easy answers, but it’s clearly unsatisfactory and unfair that some teams will be playing up to 15 games – in Whitley Bay’s case maybe even more – in the last five weeks of the season.

“We stand at a crossroads, or more likely a watershed, and need a great deal of fresh thinking if the ‘winter game’ is to survive in its present fixture format.”

Ashington FC, whose last competitive fixture was on November 28, have had ten consecutive games called off and head coach Ian Skinner is in favour of an extension.

He said: “We are going to be playing two games a week for the next 14 weeks, which is going to take it’s toll on the players and lead to injuries, not forgetting that the players already have work commitments.

“Pitches are going to be very, very heavy, and to be honest I can see more games being postponed because surfaces are going to take time to recover.

“We need the season to be extended and push into early May, because if not approved things could become farcical.

“Will clubs want it? I’m not sure because of the financial restraints on lost income on the games that have been called off.

“If the season is extended, for example by three weeks, then clubs have got to find three weeks extra resources, so it comes with a burden.

“Not having spoken to any club officials, I think they would be keen for the season to be completed when it’s due to finish because they will have budgeted for that and they could have plans in terms of other activities taking place when the football season has ended.

“At Ashington there is the annual music festival then a charity game on the May bank holiday.

“Players’ contracts expire in May so from a playing side it comes with lots of other issues.”