College Football captains have criticised the quality of pitches on the 22 Acres and the organisation of the Autumn League after the cancellation of three rounds of fixtures through poor weather. The possibility has now been raised of the league being extended beyond the end of term in order to be completed.
Alcuin skipper Miles McDermott questioned how the University team were able to “play more or less week-in, week-out on the same bit of grass separated by a few hundred metres.” He also criticised York Sport’s commitment to the league as a whole: “How is pitch maintenance time divided? York Sport seem to want to bury their heads in the sand.”
Full programmes of fixtures were postponed last weekend and on November 2nd and 29th, meaning an extra round of games to clear the backlog will now have to be scheduled for December 20th, two days into the Christmas break.
Last week, all BUCS fixtures on the 22 Acres were called off after it was determined that the pitches were too waterlogged for any sport to be played.
The situation has been greeted with frustration by the captains of sides chasing the title and could mar the finish of what has otherwise been a compelling and competitive league.
Derwent captain Dom Henney, who derided the thought of playing so close to Christmas as “stupid”, said he: “wouldn’t expect anyone to stay specially for an extra game after term has officially ended. I believe most teams will struggle to get an eleven.”
McDermott has also been vocal about the system used to decide fixtures, and the possible advantage that it has handed to his team’s rivals.
He said that Halifax, the current leaders, have enjoyed a favourable run of games, having faced none of their main rivals so far: “They have certainly had an easy run to the top of the table. I am told that this year the fixture system has been redesigned, so in the second term I will be expecting to see a different set of fixtures. Whether someone at York Sport can be bothered we shall see.”
Halifax are top of the College League with ten points, while Alcuin are second with eight. Alcuin’s fixture on the 29th would have been an opportunity to overtake their rivals, had it not been called off.
Henney echoed McDermott’s concerns regarding the fairness of the fixture system but denied that this lessened the appeal of the college league: “The first term’s winner in particular is generally the team that got luckiest with the fixtures they actually played, but it doesn’t make it a farce.”
Responding to the criticisms about the playing surfaces, Emily Scott, the York Sport President, said: “The groundsmen work tirelessly to enable as much sport as possible to be played.”
“Evidently, after as much rain as we have experienced in recent weeks, drainage becomes an issue and pitches become unplayable. This is not just to protect the pitches… but, more importantly, to protect players from the increased risk of injury.”