SWP League secretary labels season’s weather as ‘one of the worst’

South West Peninsula League secretary Phil Hiscox (right). Picture: Contributed

South West Peninsula League secretary Phil Hiscox (right). Picture: Contributed - Credit: Archant

The South West Peninsula League secretary has described this season as ‘one of the worst’ in terms of postponements

Phil Hiscox is in his 25th season as league secretary and is the man in charge of rearranging fixtures when the wet weather hits. He said: "It is certainly one of the worst and the reason for that is the sheer length of time it's been wet.

"Every year you get a wet or cold spell, that's to be expected, and in fact when you do the fixtures at the start of the season you allow for a certain amount of wet weather but this has been from November and here we are one week away from March.

"Really there hasn't been much of a break in it for four, five months now."

FA rules state that the season must be completed by the last Saturday of April which leaves only eight Saturdays for games to be played.

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The FA can grant an extension but Hiscox does not think that is likely: "I was at at FA meeting only last week where it wasn't particularly about that subject but I asked the right people and I received a lot of odd feedback that if it was games that didn't involve promotion or relegation they weren't as bothered if it went beyond the end of April.

"But if it involved promotion or relegation then they still wanted it played by the date. Which to be honest is a bit odd because if the results don't matter because teams aren't playing for anything then I don't feel quite as guilty about making them play every other night.

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"It's the ones that are struggling at the bottom or trying to win things at the top that you want to try and give them a fair fixture list."

"I think part of the reason why it's so early this year is the FA are doing a national restructure and this is the last year of it. I think they've introduced, not necessarily at our level but at the higher level, some extra play-off games to decide who goes up and who stays up.

"They come up with a calendar of dates that suit the administration of the new structure but that's put undue pressure on those that actually determine the results on the pitch. "

Hiscox has the unenviable task of rearranging the lost fixtures and said three games in a week is becoming an increasing reality for clubs: "What you're trying to do is give teams no more than Saturday, midweek, Saturday, midweek and juggling around to achieve that but its beginning to look like for some clubs that that's no longer possible so you're looking at Monday, Wednesday, Saturday to get the games played.

"There's a select handful now that are facing that but with each week that goes by with postponements then more will face that."

The rearranging process is a long one and one that actually starts before the games are called off. Hiscox said: "I'm always looking at forecasts to see if we're going to be lucky.

"When Storm Ciara came along it came more on Saturday night into Sunday so I got bit lucky whereas with Dennis it was completely the opposite.

I tend to sit and workout permutations for games in advance partly because it gives you a better chance of coming up with the right date if you worked out the worst case scenario and then you're looking at the available dates for each team.

"If there's no Saturday then you're looking at midweeks but you've got to take into account travel and that some of the club's haven't yet got floodlights, Honiton being an example, so you have to wait for the clocks to change."

Hiscox also described his typical weekend routine: "It really starts on a Friday, you're looking on a Friday morning lunchtime and thinking do you need to give the clubs specific advice on whether they need a formal referee's inspection or are you prepared that there's no need for them to drag a referee out to tell us what we already know?

"I start calculating what happens if the games are off, where I'm going to put them then you're updating social media to let the world know.

"Saturday it can start from 8AM with referees, club secretaries starting to ring in with games going off then spreading that word out so people are aware of what's on and off. Later in the day, you start trying to rearrange fixtures for the new date so that people know.

"The last part of the morning is fielding calls and emails from people desperate to go see a game and they're asking 'what's left on phil?'.

"With a Saturday like the last one just gone it becomes a very long day because you've dealt with all those postponements from eight o'clock in the morning and then five or six o'clock, you're getting the results in for the games that were played and having to put those on the website and update league tables."

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