By James Grayson (Twitter - @jamesAgrayson)
The weather throughout this season has been freakish to say the least. The wettest summer for 100 years wrecked a number of club’s pitches and caused them to have postponements early on in the season. Then snow in March, yes snow in March, has meant the 2012-13 season is limping to a finish with teams struggling to fulfil all their games.
The Evo Stik Northern League and the Northern Counties East League have averted a possible disaster by extending their seasons to May 4th. This should be enough time for clubs to fit fixtures in. The Conference should follow suit.
However, it is are resisting the call and arguably putting unnecessary pressure on their teams. The showpiece play-off final at Wembley on May 5th is the key to all the problems. It cannot be moved because of the Champions League final taking place two weeks later. Because of when the final is, the Conference Premier campaign ends on April 20th. With snow likely to create more postponements this week, it leaves the likes of Newport County, Ebbsfleet and Gateshead having to fit in up to ten games in the next three weeks.
They will have to play Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday minimum to get them in. It is unfair on everyone – the clubs, players, supporters, even referees. From Thursday night games, club are unlikely to make any money – who wants to turn out on a cold night, especially if their team has just played at home on the Saturday and Tuesday. We are in a deep recession, no-one is flush with cash – supporters or clubs. Conference clubs don’t 30-man squads. What does Newport County manager Justin Edinburgh do if he picks up five injuries on a Tuesday night match when they are due to play on the Thursday evening.
The Conference likes to be seen as a professional league, but teams playing nearly every night of the week looks amateurish, especially if they are struggling to field a team.
The Conference Premier clubs need at least one more week to sensibly fit their games in. As a one-off, Wembley has to be sacrificed and an alternative venue has to be found. It would be nice for it to be played there, but the weather has made life almost impossible for clubs.
For the integrity of the league, the Conference has to bite the bullet and accept that Wembley is not viable this year.