Fans constantly left out in the cold as EFL & National League postponements continue to bite

4 min

As the cold weather continues to see temperatures plummet, fixtures across the EFL, National League and WSL are increasingly being called off due to frozen and unplayable pitches.

On its own, perfectly reasonable and valid explanations – until the timing of these cancellations and lack of transparency between football clubs, authorities and officials are considered.

Matches are continually being postponed at short notice and, in respect to the WSL fixture between Chelsea and Liverpool at Kingsmeadow last weekend, even six minutes into the game.

Similarly, Charlton Athletic’s League One trip to Peterborough was axed just an hour-and-a-half before kick-off in what Addicks’ boss Dean Holden described as a “classic example of supporters being put last again.”

In response, Peterborough have started an internal investigation to ascertain why the fixture was called off at such short notice while owner Darragh MacAnthony has offered to pay to transport Charlton’s travelling fans back to London Road for the re-arranged fixture. 

A fair compensation perhaps, but overall how does it prevent further late postponements leaving fans out of pocket and in the cold?

The lower down the leagues, the more clubs are susceptible to bad weather due a lack of undersoil heating, covers and other pitch provisions as finances and infrastructure are already stretched to breaking point.

The National League’s catalogue of cancellations began last week with clubs including Wealdstone, Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge all guilty of calling fixtures off at short notice. 

At National League level there is no official protocol for clubs to follow with the final decision resting solely on officials, who have no cut-off time to decide whether a game is deemed as playable or not.

Speaking exclusively to London Football Scene, the National League’s General Manager Mark Ives added: “Some referees have to travel long journeys to inspect the pitch. This puts immense pressure on them to get to the ground and make a decision.”

Non-league clubs will naturally do everything they can to ensure pitches pass a referee’s inspection with many decisions delayed in the sheer hope conditions improve enough to allow a game to go ahead – often to the detriment of travelling home and away fans.

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And despite the Premier League announcing an increased investment package of £12.6m to support the National League over the next three years, supporters shouldn’t expect the situation to change anytime soon with the money expected to be spent elsewhere.

In comparison, EFL protocols are slightly different and arguably more disjointed, enforcing a balancing act between clubs, officials and in consultation with safety officers, who assess the conditions around the ground. 

With differing voices and opinions, often combined with mis-communication and personal agendas, it can be quite difficult for a final decision to be made with the EFL aware and appreciating it is not currently the most ideal situation.

However, like the National League, there appears to be no plans to re-assess protocol at the present time – despite calls from the Football Supporters’ Associations (FSA) who believe a complete revision of the current set-up is needed.

Andy Walsh, FSA’s Head of National Game and Community-Ownership, said: “If a referee is travelling long distances to inspect the ground, they should be given commission. However, this is not always enforced.

“It (the postponements) also affects clubs’ cash flow – if weekend games are rescheduled for mid-week, there naturally won’t be as many in attendance at grounds.

“Similarly, train companies are not good for reimbursing fans, which is another huge problem.” 

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With extreme cold weather likely to remain for the next few weeks and into subsequent winters, the current set of regulations at both National League and EFL level are unable to cope as fans simply ask for more transparency and compensation when games are under threat. 

AFC Wimbledon’s recent decision to postpone their League Two encounter with Walsall a whole 24 hours beforehand due to bad weather points to sensible decision-making and a club taking note of the situation and fans.

But during a cost-of-living crisis it is few and far between with a refunded ticket, free burger, hot dog or other token gesture simply not cutting it anymore.


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