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East Lancs leagues won’t be weather beaten
5:14pm Tuesday 18th February 2014 in Sport
LOCAL amateur football leagues across East Lancashire insist they will not be weather beaten despite fixture programmes being decimated in recent weeks.
Junior and senior leagues have suffered since the turn of the year but they are confident they will be able to fulfil all of their matches.
A mild November and December has meant that most leagues lost very few matches at the end of 2013 - a blessing considering what has happened since.
However, the weather has hits leagues in different ways often depending on if matches are played on Saturdays or Sundays.
The Blackburn Combination has lost just 20 games in 2014 and have had only one complete blank weekend.
“At this stage there is no need to panic and all fixtures have been rescheduled,” said Bill Markham, fixture secretary of the Blackburn Combination.
“Although this has been a very bad winter, we have had some good Saturdays so we have only been minimally affected so far.
“It has not been our worst by a long way. One of the worst I can remember was my first in 2002/03 when, by this stage, we had 122 games postponed but we got through.
“In 2009/10, was barely completed and some clubs were faced with seven or eight games to play in April.”
The Blackburn Sunday League, which uses the same Pleasington Playing Fields at the Combination, has been hit harder.
Bill Maynard, fixture secretary, says midweek matches will have to be played to ensure the league completes its season.
The league has currenlty lost 70 matches to the weather and has had five blank weekends so far this year.
He said: “Although the position is serious we are still just on course to complete on time although we will have almost certainly have midweek games with the loss of more weekends.
“Because most games are played on council pitches, we have to complete fixtures on by April 27. This may well be a problem should we lose many more fixtures to complete the season.
“I cannot say at this stage whether the season could be extended. We would need to discuss our options with the councils involved.”
The Harry Dewhurst Memorial League is the smallest of the senior league but again midweek games appear to be the likely option to make sure all matches are played.
"The lack of football being played is extremely frustrating for our league,” said fixtures and results secretary, Simon Kerins. “It is not the worst run without matches. In the past, we have gone from late October to mid-February without staging any games “But it is still annoying for players, managers and league officials alike.
“For the past few years, midweek games in spring and early summer have been the norm and they will be inevitable again this year.”
Andrew Breckhell, Accrington Combination’s referees and fixtures secretary, says the current situation is nothing as bad as two season ago when they went more than three months without a game.
“At present not too bad, as I am now rearranging the fixtures we have lost for Saturdays in April,” he said.
“If my memory serves me correct, two seasons ago when the snow and ice was on the ground from mid-November until end of February, we went 14 weeks without a game.
“But If we have two more poor weekends when games are called off, we will have to play evening games - and teams don't like that because of the work commitments of players.
Alan Greenwood, secretary of the Accrington and District Junior Boys League, says it is the wettest season he has known in 20 years which has resulted in more than 200 fixtures lost to the weather.
And he fears the inactivity could see a lot of youngsters turn their attentions to other things.
“Teams may find when the weather gets better that some of their players will have found something else to do with the inactivity of games,” said Greenwood. “We may be faced with allowing teams to sign players on to get them through the season.”
“This season as seen wet weather as opposed to snow or frozen pitches - it must be the wettest season I have seen in 20 years of being the league secretary.
“We can only hope that from now in we can get some games played but the forecast is not good and the pitches will take weeks to get the water table down and games played.”