I’ve seen quite a few messages on social media over the last week relating to the weather, football matches being cancelled, who is at fault for it and even questioning why more money isn’t coming down from the higher echelons of the game to help deal with it.
It’s an argument that’s been more to the fore this year given the relatively late timing of the big freezes and then the rain that followed behind it meaning so many pitches were unplayable.
We’re all used to seeing the cold weather and rain call matches off in the winter months, but to see so many fall foul of the conditions as we move (apparently) into spring is quite rare.
That in turn has led to a few leagues extending their seasons by a week to spread out the backlogs of fixtures - the common sense option given some teams across the country were facing having to play two and even three games on consecutive days which would be an unreasonable expectation for the biggest teams in the world let alone those in the semi-pro and amateur games.
One tweet I saw showed a photo of a pitch almost entirely underwater and was critical of the FA for not doing enough to prevent it, blamed the ‘fatcats’ and those paid obscene amounts of money and claiming clubs would fold if more wasn’t done about it.
I was a bit perplexed by that because the author was essentially blaming the powers that be for the weather, which there is nothing anybody can do about apart from upping sticks and moving our domestic leagues to the Bahamas.
I think I got the essence of what the chap was on about though, namely that if more money was ploughed into grassroots then better infrastructure could be put in place to improve, for example, pitch drainage, and/or help fund 3G pitches - love them or hate them.
It’s a tricky subject really because the bottom line is that clubs have to look after themselves, whatever that might mean financially. Is your priority your pitch or your team? Your success or your sustainability? Not many clubs can concentrate equally on them all.
Just pumping money down to everyone from high up isn’t necessarily the answer in situations like this because there are just too many clubs and to split even a considerable pot between them (we’re talking about fairness here after all) would probably result in a relatively small amount of cash available.
There are over 1,600 clubs in the top seven steps of the non-league pyramid - it would take a donation of around £90 million to give each of them about £50k, although one could argue £90 million is still small change depending on where it’s coming from.
Grants are available from sources such as the Football Foundation to help with things such as 3G pitches, but that’s not a solution every club can, or would want to, explore.
I’ll be writing a feature piece over the next few weeks talking more generally about what those at the top of the game can do to help the grassroots game given the huge chasm when it comes to financial reward, but when it comes to answering the gripes about the weather and fixture congestion, some common sense, better scheduling of fixtures earlier in the campaign and probably a bit of luck too remain the two most important factors!