THE EDITOR’S CHAIR: Conference fixture pile-up is a disgrace
NEWPORT County AFC ply their trade in what is meant to be a professional league.
The Blue Square Bet Premier is the fifth division of English football – just one division below the Football League.
Yet it appears to be run like a Sunday pub league. Actually, that’s unfair to many Sunday pub leagues that are well administered.
Britain’s weather through the autumn and winter has been horrendous.
Rain has been an almost daily occurrence, while snow and ice have had a terrible effect on the north of the nation over the last week or so.
The impact on sport has been considerable, with all kinds of events, from international football matches to horse-racing, called off.
In the Blue Square Bet Premier a number of teams face a huge fixture backlog before the season is due to end on April 20.
Newport County have nine games to play in 24 days, starting away at Gateshead tonight (a match that has been postponed four times already and is now due to be staged in Boston).
Obviously, as a County fan I am biased on this issue. But it does not affect just one team.
Macclesfield and Ebbsfleet are in identical situations, while poor old Braintree have ten games still to play.
The situation is ridiculous. Yet the Football Conference, the body that administers the league, has refused point-blank to extend the season.
Why? Because the league’s playoff final is booked for Wembley Stadium on May 5 and the prestige of having that match played at Wembley appears to be more important than anything else.
It’s more important than the health and wellbeing of professional footballers who will effectively be doing little more than playing and recovering for the rest of the season.
It’s more important than the finances of the division’s clubs, many of whom struggle to survive on a weekly basis, and who will now be budgeting for smaller attendances for the remainder of the season.
And it’s more important than the fans, who are always forgotten in these situations and who face trying to find the cash to attend so many games in a short space of time.
The Conference season ends early because the Champions League Final is at Wembley this year and May 5 was the only available date for the play-off final.
Yet why does it have to be held at Wembley? There are Premier League grounds across the country capable of hosting such a match at short notice.
And why can’t the season be extended?
The Northern Premier League – an amateur set-up – has just done it. Hell, even kids’ leagues do it on a regular basis.
When our sports reporters first raised the issue of fixture congestion with the Football Conference the response was that this was an “extraordinary problem” that required an “extraordinary solution”.
Doing absolutely nothing doesn’t seem very extraordinary to me.
Council’s response to double bill
MY PIECE last week about receiving two identical council tax bills through the post – the only difference being the words “South Wales” added to my address on one of them – has elicited a response from Newport City Council.
I should point out that I used my double bill as a little example of some of the waste and duplication that still goes on in Britain’s cashstrapped public sector.
Nevertheless, as the council seems a trifle touchy about the matter, here’s its response: “Newport City Council ordinarily issues one bill per household but there are occasions when more than one bill is necessary.
“For instance, householders can nominate a third party, such as a relative or carer, to pay the bill and both parties would then be sent a bill. In some circumstances, people have filled in the ‘third party’ section in error with their own details.
“This information is then automatically generated into the system which can lead to duplication.
“Anyone with queries about their council tax bills should contact 01633 656656 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org ”
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