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An Organisational Disaster

By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 12/02/2014

ONCE again the Conference season is turning into an organisational disaster. The warnings were not heeded from last year when several teams were left with enormous backlogs of games entailing 3-4 games a week in the last month of the season.

This year could be even worse with the current weather pattern predicted to continue until May, after the end of the season.

If the wet weather is here to stay for a few months we could well see 5-6 games a week in the run-in for some teams, in order to meet the dates set for the play-offs which cannot be moved because Wembley has been booked for them.

I wrote an article a year ago suggesting the season was extended at either end. I can't believe this wasn't considered by the Conference, who this summer have to seriously consider ways of reducing the number of games that need to played in the last few weeks. The current situation cannot be allowed to happen again.

Top of the blame list is the FA Trophy. Most fans of the former league clubs who form the majority of teams in the Conference, have little or no interest in the FA Trophy. Their only desire is to get back into the league they fell from. Yes a Wembley final is a good day out, but it's very difficult to get to the final and win promotion (York did it, but in a year that was not particularly affected by weather). A few of the part time teams in the Conference might have some genuine interest in the FA Trophy but for most teams and their supporters it is a minor irrelevance.

It's ludicrous that the FA Trophy goes to replays. The League Cup and Johnstone Paint Trophy, much more important competitions, do not. The FA Trophy wipes out league games, and gaps must be left for it in case a replay is required. The tournament should be moved to midweek without replays and maybe made optional for those teams who don't want to contest it at all.

3G pitches should also be encouraged, not banned as the Conference did just a few weeks ago. It would be perfect for clubs with poor drainage like Braintree and Gateshead last season.

England C should be quietly forgotten as well. Even women's football gets more coverage than these games. England C has been heavily criticised by several Conference managers who are unable to schedule games for when the national side play, even if none of their players are involved.

Another consideration is the TV money. BT Sport will soon wash their hands of this division once they realise trying to tie a fixture down to a specific date is virtually impossible because of the all-pervasive nature of the FA Trophy combined with the poor pitches many teams have. If the Conference want to retain the TV money they need to bring themselves into the 21st century. There's hardly been any games for 2 seasons now on TV because of the fixture chaos which is part and parcel of this division.

If the Conference stick their head in the sand and declare Business As Usual next summer, some clubs may resort to deliberately throwing FA Trophy games just to avoid the fixture congestion that ensues. In fact a few of the smarter teams may have done that already this year.

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