Sunday 01st January 2006

Fleet official explains Crawley postponement

Gravesend & Northfleet officials have taken plenty of flack from supporters on internet message boards recently after their Nationwide Conference game against Crawley Town was postponed an hour and a half before kick off on Friday night due to a waterlogged Stonebridge Road pitch, writes Stephen McCartney.

Club secretary and director Roly Edwards, has, however, issued a statement on the club's website - www.gnfc.co.uk -  explaining some of the details surrounding this decision from the club's perspective.

He said: "I first arrived at the ground at 08.30 am and at this point the pitch was in a perfect state for the match to be played.

"I visited again at around 11.00 am at which point in time it was raining quite steadily but the pitch looked great.

"Also by this time the office were receiving lots of calls re the match being played and we had no option but to express a firm positiveness that the game would go ahead. Mixed messages are not what people want to hear and there was no doubt or signs of problems with the pitch at this time.

"I inspected the pitch again at 1.00pm by which time it had been raining steadily for a few hours and still the pitch was perfect. I stayed on or around the pitch from that point until it was eventually postponed and at no point could we have justified an early inspection as the pitch was perfectly playable – a crystal ball would have been necessary in order to see what was to happen later in the day.

"I had been keeping a close eye on the local weather forecast and it was quite specific in that the rain was due to stop between around 6.00 -7.00 pm which in fact it eventually did.

"I know the characteristics of our pitch very well; it can take a fair bit of rain but then due to our high water table it reaches a saturation point, the impossibility is knowing in advance when this point is. Due to the construction of the pitch a game can take place without any problem even though the water table might be just inches below the surface.

"At around 5.30 pm I was becoming concerned as it was raining as hard as it had all day and there were signs that water was beginning to lay on the surface. The match referee (who by the way is the only person to officially call the game off) was due to arrive at the ground imminently and it was at this point that we needed the rain to stop.

"He duly arrived and amid the downpour immediately expressed his concern. I advised him of the forecast but I have to admit there were no signs of the rain stopping, if anything it was becoming worse.

"We agreed to delay the opening of the gates until 6.15pm and make a decision then. There was no let up in the weather during this time and at 6.10pm he made the decision to call the game off.

"I have to admit that at this point in time there were some patches of laying water and if the rain was to have continued for much longer the game would have probably become farcical.

"In fact within a few minutes the rain had stopped and we were faced with a completely different picture. I honestly believe that if a decision had been made 15 minutes later or had it stopped raining a half an hour earlier then the match would most definitely have gone ahead.

"We had received a fantastic amount of interest all day and I believe that despite the weather we would have seen a decent crowd for the game.

"The football club apologises sincerely to all those who made the journey only to be disappointed upon arrival, but we must stress that at a very late stage we were beaten by the elements and the elements alone.

"It is our responsibility to do all that we can to ensure that any match takes place and this is what we did.

"The club can always learn from these situations and I will be raising some of the issues that I have read on the forum and agree wholeheartedly with. I went out to the main entrance after the game myself to explain to many people what had taken place and it seemed to me that they all went away disappointed but satisfied in that they at least had been made aware of the circumstances."