We can blame a lot of things on York Sport, the weather is not one of them

Photograph by Sam Newsome

Photograph by Sam Newsome

It is frustrating that this year’s College League Competition has been so badly affected by weather. A number of mouth-watering fixtures have been called off with little possibility of being played unless the competition is extended well into the Christmas holidays. It is incredibly disappointing, especially as the league was building up to a tense climax.

My own disappointment will be nothing in comparison to that of Alcuin captain Miles McDermott, for whom each cancelled round signifies a blow to his team’s chances of taking the title.

Yet to criticise York Sport’s maintenance of the pitches is a cheap shot and entirely without substance. In the past few weeks, the north of England has experienced weather that has managed to submerge the entire town of Cockermouth and bring the Ouse’s water level to somewhere in the middle of the Lowther. To complain about cancelled football amongst all of this is a little unreasonable.

The hard work of groundsmen on the 22 Acres has been defended by York Sport and you have to feel sympathy for them. Watford, my local football team, had a Premiership football game against Wigan cancelled two years ago after the pitch at Vicarage Road became waterlogged. If it happens in the Premiership, it’s likely to happen in the College Football League.

It is true that the university first team suffer fewer cancellations than the college teams and there is no denying that some pitches on the field are of better quality than others. Yet last Wednesday every BUCS fixture on the 22 Acres was cancelled, the pitches so bad that even Lacrosse could not be played. Again we can’t blame the groundsmen. It’s just a fact of life when living in England.

There is definitely an issue regarding the organisation of the College League, especially considering this problem seems to occur every year. It is perhaps too ambitious to expect that games will be played every weekend throughout the first two terms, when pitches are most likely to suffer from rain and the February freeze. Perhaps one official league should be played over the first two terms, allowing more time for cancelled fixtures to be replayed. Is this really necessary though? Derwent captain Dom Henney has said that although the first term’s league winner is usually the team that is luckiest with cancellations, the competition is not devalued. It’s just something that the players have to deal with.

With BUCS fixtures it could be more of a problem and last year the annual competition with York St. John, Varsity, was cancelled due to games having to be rescheduled. That was a real shame and it should be ensured that it does not happen again, by scheduling Varsity for a weekend or the summer term – possibly as a warm up for Roses?

As for now, we need to just accept that the weather is one of those things that can not be predicted or controlled. And with the coldest temperatures not even setting in yet, there will be many more cancellations on the way.

One comment

  1. 8 Dec ’09 at 5:43 pm

    Dan Horsfall

    While nobody can change the weather, the notion that such adverse conditions are the sole cause of missed matches is rubbish. The Week 3 cancellation came during what was admittedly heavy rain, but at a time when no rain had been seen prior to the morning. The game was called off with a look to the skies rather than a look to the pitches.

    There have been other matches that have been called off when the pitches have been playable, generally to ensure the pitches are not ruined. Ruined for what? For the subsequent week’s cancellation? Nothing other than College football gets played on those pitches so I have no idea why a match is called off if there is no threat to the players.

    It is particularly galling to see a college match called off whilst the paying public are allowed to continue playing their matches (risking ruin to the uni pitches). Indeed, the other week conditions were deemed too bad for a bunch of 18 year-olds (or older in our case), however the local 12 year-olds were able to struggle through on a pitch only 10 yards from the first college pitch.

    To suggest that the groundstaff are working their hardest on the 22 acres is also misleading; they work on the uni pitches but when have you ever seen them down at the college pitches treating the ground as soon as the matches are over?

    Ultimately, while college use of the pitches is undoubtedly subsidised, we do still pay for the privilege. As such, just with any local league match, the decision to abandon or postpone a match should be taken by a qualified referee and not a groundsperson – though they should of course consult the groundstaff. The only justification for calling off a match would then be that the referee deemed conditions unsafe for players. It would be interesting to see how many games the chair of refsoc would have cancelled due to the condition of the pitches – I bet it would be hardly any.

    When the pitches are genuinely not fit to be played on, we should still question why. The notion that weather conditions have been particularly bad this year is again, nonsense. Ok, there’s been flooding some 100 miles away, but by York’s standard, this has been a dry Winter, the Ouse didn’t even reach Clifford’s Street, which it has achieved 3 years out of the last 10. The issue must lie with the maintenance of the pitches; some 30 yards away the golf club manages to maintain perfect greens, the Uni pitches are all ok, and it is rare that the local leagues call matches off.

    A simple idea would be to have a spare pitch (before the tent was built we used to have one) so that each pitch could have a week off. We have 4 uni teams and there are 5 pitches over the hedge, why not let us use the one closest to the current college pitches? It will not completely solve the problem but it would allow pitches recovery time. If this was then combined with real care and attention, I’m sure we would get more games played.

    Unfortunately, college sport really isn’t YorkSport’s priority – it has made thet much clear. We, a University with some of the worst sports facillities around, have decided to prioritise excellence in sport, rather than inclusion and collegiality.

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