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No one to blame

By David B (legacy user)12/1/2015 18:00Mon Jan 12 18:00:18 2015In response to Re: Met Police

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If the match gets called off tonight, there will be no one who should be blamed. We did what we could in arranging a mid-afternoon inspection. Nobody in their right mind would deliberately mislead fans about the state of the pitch and a club such as Hendon would never waste money on a referee coming to inspect in mid-afternoon, he gets a fee for doing it, just for the fun of it.

When the local referee inspected the Earlsmead pitch it was playable - and if, in his opinion, it had not been playable, then he would have called it off. However, he can't (or shouldn't) postpone a game on what might come out of the sky in the following four hours. Let's face it, if he called the game off on the basis of a forecast, not what he had inspected, and there was almost no rain afterwards, he would not have done his job. Similarly if he passed the pitch fit and it hosed it down for three hours - and significantly more than was expected in the forecast - then we just have to shrug our shoulders and let the clubs sort out a new date.

In reality, it is very rare for the referee to make a bad decision about allowing a game to go ahead – I recall frost at Edgware for the Middlesex Cup tie against Wealdstone and a waterlogged Enfield (at Southbury Road), both of which were abandoned before half-time - just as it is rare for a game to be called off when the pitch is playable. At least Metropolitan Police FC is a relatively local club, so they don’t have far to travel to get to Earlsmead.

Things were very different in October 1998, when we were due to play Bath City in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round at Claremont Road. An early Saturday morning inspection found the pitch to be playable, but about 10 minutes after the referee left, the heavens opened for four hours. By the time the match referee arrived, many parts of the pitch had standing water at grass level and his postponement inspection took only a couple of minutes. At 2.15, the Bath chairman arrived and he went ballistic about the late decision to call off the game, so he was taken down to the pitch and invited to walk on it. Three strides across the touchline, with the water lapping around his ankles, he turned and apologised for his earlier outburst. No referee could possibly have passed the pitch fit in that state, just as no referee could have called off the game five hours earlier.

I remember the same thing happened in the 1986-87 season, when Yeovil made trips in consecutive days for a League Cup semi-final second leg at Claremont Road and I recall watching the match official - who was based in Reading - vainly trying to get the ball to roll through the puddles on the pitch. It was bad enough that Yeovil had to turn around to go home at 7.30 that evening, but their coach broke down at Staples Corner (meaning they got home at stupid o'clock the following morning) and their goalkeeper, a farmer based in Cornwall, couldn't come back the following day because it was lambing season.

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