The Life of a Fixture Secretary

Phil Hiscox Enjoying a Game from the Peninsula League

Phil Hiscox Enjoying a Game from the Peninsula League - Credit: Archant

The Life of a Fixture Secretary

There are some sporting jobs you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, and then there is the job of a fixture secretary at the time of a Global pandemic.

When it comes to the world of sport, particularly at the grassroots level, it does not get any more difficult, and even the legendary Phil Hiscox from the South-West Peninsula League admitted the past two seasons have left him pretty much exhausted.

After overcoming the understandable disappointment of a complete cancellation of the previous campaign, Hiscox and his trusty fixture computer were all set for this season and things were progressing very nicely, with teams like Sidmouth Town, for example, a quarter of the way through their schedule when the second lockdown came into force.

“Last season ended with the Coronavirus and, even before that, it was a season of hell weather-wise,” said Hiscox. “The weather actually changed as soon as Covid came along and the weather is all set fair for this new lockdown.

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“It has been just one battle after another; we had the weather last winter, the Covid crisis and uncertainty through the summer over when we could restart the football calendar.

“We lost all of August, so we started a month late and I had to design a fixture programme to compensate for that lost month. We are now faced with a restart at the beginning of December and that’s the best-case scenario.

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“It is obviously out of our hands but we have done the planning. Covid will still be around and there is always the potential for individual clubs to have cases, which means further postponements.

“A blanket ban is very difficult for a fixture secretary but it’s just as bad if individual clubs are involved. My further issue is making allowances for our clubs still involved in the FA Vase competition.

“Three of our teams (Newton Abbot Spurs, Falmouth and Helston) have progressed to the next round, which was scheduled to be played on November 28 and obviously won’t happen now, plus we have Millbrook, from the same league as Sidmouth, who are a round behind.

“The shame for our League was that we had a decent start and a lot of clubs were well over a quarter of their fixtures played. I crammed in a lot of games through the midweek and I know it has been tough for clubs in terms of fitness and availability.

“I actually worked out a statistical plan that mapped out where we needed to be at the end of each month, and we were doing ok.

“The last part of the puzzle was to be at a certain place by the end of November, before the bad weather arrives, and we’re obviously not going to reach that target.

“We are left relying on the weather behaving itself through the winter and the games we’ve lost in November have been piled into spare capacity we had in March, April and May.

“The problem is we normally reserve that space for games that are lost through bad weather.

“It is a huge challenge and I’ve been the League Secretary for around 30 years. We’ve had bad winters before, things like Foot and Mouth, but two seasons on the trot of this situation has even tried my patience.

“We are given notifications from the Football Association and tied to their rules and regulations. The FA hold a monthly online meeting and it is quite depressing some times.

“The chap running the North-West Counties League, which includes Liverpool and Manchester, has a team from Isle of Man that is yet to play a game because of various quarantine rules.

“There is some hope, however, and it is my belief that we just focus on enjoying the football as much as we can this season. We play when it is safe to do so and hope for normality next year.”

It is one of those forgotten jobs in football and we salute Phil Hiscox for his dedication.

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