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We are getting close to that time of year again when copious amounts of grassroots football matches may be lost to the weather. This short guide seeks to advise clubs on their options in this situation.
The first point to note is that the only people authorised to call off matches due to unplayable pitches are the REFEREE or the venue's GROUNDSMAN. The clubs themselves are not authorised to make this decision under any circumstances or to unduly influence those who are authorised.
In the Senior Division, being part of the National League System, any postponement due to weather can only be made with the agreement of a suitably qualified match official who must attend the ground to inspect.
In all other divisions, where councils or groundsman at private grounds are making these decisions to call off matches, there is little that can be done unfortunately as these authorities look to protect their pitches from excessive damage. Invariably these decisions are taken before the weekend so allow for alternative venues to possibly be found in time for a match.
Where the decision is made by the appointed referee on the day, their judgement will be primarily based around the safety of players as the main priority over anything else.
WHAT DO I DO IF MY PITCH IS DEEMED UNPLAYABLE BY MY LOCAL AUTHORITY OR GROUNDSMAN?
In the Senior Division, if the groundsman believes there may be a chance of weather intervening, the home club must contact the Referees Secretary to arrange for an inspection by a suitably qualifed, local referee who must attend the ground. If the referee confirms that a pitch is unplayable, the home club must then liaise with the opposition and the league to explore the possibility of a ground switch. Failing such, the game will be postponed and notifications required as detailed in a paragraph below.
In cases where the local authority/groundsman has called off pitches involving fixtures below Senior Division level, the home club should first make contact with their opponents in order to find out whether a potential ground swap could take place to get the game on. If it can then great! Make sure you let your players and the referee know that you have changed venues of course.
If you are unable to find an alternative pitch, you must contact each of the following people, ideally in the following order: OPPONENTS, REFEREE (AND ASSISTANTS, WHERE APPOINTED), REFEREE'S SECRETARY, RESULTS LINE, FIXTURES SECRETARY. This still applies whether a game is called off early 2 days before or on the day of the match itself.
Please, please, please don't tell your players that the game is off before you have even spoken to your opponents as they may be able to assist with alternative arrangements! The old chesnut of "I've already told my players" doesn't wash I'm afraid!
USE OF ARTIFICIAL SURFACES
For clubs with access to artificial surfaces, please be aware that all such venues have to be on the approved register of facilities which is compiled by the FA nationwide.
If you are booking an artificial surface for a match, you are required to make your opponents aware of the local footwear requirements of the surface as this changes from one venue to another.
NOTIFY THE LEAGUE OF ANY AGREED CHANGES
Whilst the league are happy for the venue to be changed so that the game can be played, please ensure that the league are made aware. There is nothing worse than a league officer or potential spectator heading out to watch a match that has been moved to a different ground without being made aware!
This equally applies to any fixture where the standard kick-off time is agreed for change. Changes of kick-off time must be reported to the Fixtures Secretary so that the website can be updated.
If you have any queries with any of the above, please don't hesitate to contact us.