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It is that time of year again when copious amounts of grassroots football matches are lost to the weather with the rain seemingly never ending! This short guide seeks to advise clubs on their options in this situation.
Where councils or groundsman at private grounds are making these decisions (and is their policy to do so), there is little that can be done unfortunately as these authorities look to protect their pitches from excessive damage. Invariably these decisions are taken before the weekend so allow for alternative venues to be found in time for a match.
It is worth noting that if you are playing on a LB of Redbridge pitch (Hainault Rec, Barkingside Park, Seven Kings Park etc), the council DO NOT make decisions themselves on these surfaces so it is the referee who has the sole right to decide on whether a pitch is playable - NOT the home club. The referee's judgement will be primarily based around the safety of players as the main priority.
We have already had instances this season where pitches have been deemed unplayable by the home club's officials but found later to have been playable when referees have turned up and inspected so please bear this in mind.
What do I do if my pitch is deemed unplayable by my local authority or groundsman?
In cases where the local authority/groundsman has called off pitches, the home club should first make contact with their opponents in order to find out whether a potential ground swap could take place to get the game on. If it can then great! Make sure you let your players and the referee know that you have changed venues of course.
If you are unable to find an alternative pitch, you must contact each of the following people, ideally in the following order: OPPONENTS, REFEREE, REFEREE'S SECRETARY, RESULTS LINE, FIXTURES SECRETARY. This still applies whether a game is called off early 2 days before or on the morning of the match itself.
Please, please, please don't tell your players that the game is off before you have even spoken to your opponents as they may be able to assist with alternative arrangements!
What if my pitch is frozen?
In the case of frozen pitches, every effort must be made to wait until 11am to see if a pitch can thaw out by then. The referee's decision is final and they will consider safety before any other factor.
Our League policy is for games to have started by 11am where frozen conditions are experienced however you are more than welcome for the game to start even later than that if both teams and the referee are in agreement. This also applies to other situations where neither club has control, for instance, a late arriving groundsman where a later kick-off does not disadvantage either side.
Use of artificial surfaces
One of the major discussions taking place it seems worldwide at present is the use of artificial surfaces, particularly the use of 3G pitches.
From 2013/14, the FA approved use of 3G pitches for all competition matches at our level meaning that the League or its member clubs cannot refuse to use such surface for any League or League Cup matches provided the home side makes their opponents aware of the footwear policy at the venue they intend to use.
In 2014/15, the 3G venue must be on the approved register of facilities which is currently being compiled by the FA nationwide.
At least by some clubs opting to switch games to this surface during the wet season, we will see more fixtures getting completed so if you have access to such facilities then please feel free to make use of them.
One of the common misconceptions is that a "4G" surface is superior to a "3G" surface which is in fact incorrect as there is no such thing as a "4G" surface. There are various gradings/qualities within the "3G" bracket and certainly more recently laid "3G" will show an improvement on the earlier versions however all are acceptable for competition matches.
If you have any queries with any of the above, please don't hesitate to contact us.