Conference boss firm on fixtures – no extension to season
FOOTBALL Conference general manager Dennis Strudwick maintains that there is no possibility of extending the season, despite mounting criticism over the fixture chaos.
Newport County AFC manager Justin Edinburgh is the latest to blast the authority after the Exiles’ scheduled clash with Gateshead was postponed for a fourth time.
County feel their promotion prospects are being severely damaged by a gruelling programme that will see them play 11 games in 29 days.
It’s even worse for part-time mid-table outfit Braintree Town who must now cram a quarter of their season into March and April.
However, the Conference are still intent on honouring their date at Wembley for the play-off final on Sunday, May 5, and were quick to point out that County’s fixture backlog isn’t just a result of the Gateshead travails.
And terrifyingly for Newport fans, Strudwick isn’t ruling out the possibility of games being played with just 24 hours in between if the rotten weather persists.
“At the moment our priority is what it always has been,” Strudwick said, “to get the games all scheduled in the best way possible.
“We are probably all ruing weeks past where there were no midweek fixtures and we know it’s going to be a very busy end to the campaign and that’s unfortunate.”
However, he is as firm as ever on the Wembley issue despite calls from many to forego the play-off final date in order to extend the season.
“All the arrangements are in place,” said Strudwick.
“I’ve seen plenty of quotes about not using Wembley and going somewhere else, but those are obviously observations made by people not in football administration.”
On the prospect of football games being played virtually every 24 hours, he commented: “I don’t have a crystal ball, we don’t know what the weather will do.
“But we can’t rule out games nearly every day, I did it as a player.
“At the moment though our focus is on making the schedule as fair as possible.”
Strudwick also pointed out that Newport’s situation is not just ‘Gateshead’s fault’.
When put to him that this wasn’t Newport’s fault, he commented: “It’s not Newport’s fault about the Gateshead game, but there is too much finger pointing going on.
“Newport have had their problems and postponements as well, like last weekend when they were the only game off in the division.
“Instead of concentrating on conspiracy theories we should be communicating about solutions.”
County’s director of football Tim Harris reacted with weary acceptance when told of the Conference stance.
“What can I say that hasn’t been said already?” he said.
“The cost to the club, to our supporters, time and again for this fixture, non-refundable hotels, travel costs, it’s all mounted for us and more importantly for our fans,” he said.
“We feel strongly that the schedule we have makes an absolute mockery of this division, but it appears those views aren’t going to make a difference.
“But we had to speak up. We owed it to our supporters.”