2022/23 season end – Combined Counties League statement

The Combined Counties Football League logo.
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Following the publication of the Football Association’s plans for an end of season that is likely to see a number of teams up and down the country attempt to fit an impossible number of games in before a rigid season cut-off of 22nd April, we asked our ‘on patch’ Step 5 and 6 league what they had planned.

You can read the original statement from the FA here. You can read here some of the reasons why this season has become particularly difficult.

For transparency, Football in Berkshire has a number of contributors who are fixture secretaries at different competitions. From open conversations with them, we have an understanding of the difficulties competitions have had this season – not least with the inclement weather which seems intent on continuing through April.

UPDATE: 2022/23 season extension at Step 5 and 6 NOW expected

Please note if you are reading this from outside our ‘patch’, the FA has made clear that it is the league’s responsibility to decide what to do. Whatever the Combined Counties League (CCL) decide, does not mean the Hellenic League, the Wessex League or the North West Counties League will come to the same conclusion.

Full Combined Counties League statement

This season has seen an unprecedented number of postponed matches.  They started in earnest on Saturday 10 December, when 24 of the 31 scheduled matches were postponed.

The following midweek we lost all 11 matches followed on Saturday 17 December when only 2 matches, both on 3G went ahead out of 30 planned.  There were further multiple postponements in January (14th – 22 off, 21st – 23 off, etc).  February wasn’t too bad but the poor weather returned, with multiple postponements continuing through March and now on to April.

The Football in Berkshire team discuss the FA and the statement (statement continues below):

Listen from 01:00

Needless to say, the Twitter trolls have been active with the usual comments revolving around why we didn’t play more matches in midweek earlier in the season.  All good advice no doubt had we known what was going to happen. 

To explain, the CCL provides an annual list before the start of the season, the ambition being that every club will have a game every Saturday.  That worthy principle is quickly scuppered in Division One as we have an odd number of clubs which means that on the majority of Saturdays, at least one club is inactive.  Basically, we try to fill up all the Saturdays from August to April, with the remainder being allocated to midweek, the majority before the turn of the year.  Normally it doesn’t work out too badly

Again, in Division One we have the highest concentration of ground-sharing clubs in the country, with 15 out of the 21 sharing either as owner or tenant.  We have no influence over higher leagues who simply set their own fixtures and we have to work behind the lines so to speak.  There have been some weeks where there have been insufficient home grounds to go round, which again, doesn’t help.  Neither do we have much influence over County FA’s the majority of whom do not really worry about our league matches and we have had one or two heated discussions this season.  The problem for leagues is that the current “rights of precedence” give Counties the right to play their Senior Cup games whenever they want and they all do something different, including one or two who insist upon starting their County Cup competitions in August, which can mean that with FA Cup and Vase matches starting around the same time, it becomes increasingly difficult to get off to a good start

Another significant problem has been that where clubs at Step 4 and upwards have had postponements themselves, they have generally been quick to “grab” the available dates in midweek leaving us to scrap around for spare Tuesdays.

As to what we are going to do, we have a Board meeting coming up when this issue will be debated.  In recent weeks, where possible we have tried to ensure that any club likely to be in the play-offs will be ready to compete on the dates laid down by the FA.  These are immediately after the 22nd April which has led to the situation whereby many clubs are now facing 3 or even 4 matches in midweek and the League being ridiculed by people who clearly have little understanding of the overall situation.  Even that hasn’t worked as the postponements have just gone on and on and it always tends to be the same clubs.

It does seem now that we will not be able to get every match played so back to the question ‘what do we do about it’.  We have no specific rules and there has not been any specific FA guidance, other than the addition of an extra week but only for those clubs not likely to be in the play-offs.  To be fair, that is helping in the two Premier Divisions but not in Division One which is tightly bunched up with nearly 50% of the clubs not too far away from being in the play-offs.

We will hopefully come to a decision at the meeting: the options being: we call each game a nil-nil draw, or we use PPG, or we award unplayed games to the away club as it is not their fault if the home ground is unfit for play, or we don’t award any points for unplayed matches.  None seem ideal but as we go into the final games of the season, we will have to opt for one method or another.

Alan Constable

Director CCL

11 April 2023

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