Saturday 29th January 2005

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Clubs blast Kent League over fixture fiasco

LEADING figures at Go Travel Kent League clubs have questioned the management of the league over the allocation of their fixtures, writes Stephen McCartney.

Herne Bay made the long trip to the Erith Sports Stadium on a cold Monday night in December and only 72 fans braved the cold conditions when Erith Town hosted Tunbridge Wells last Monday.

After playing five successive games away from home, including two cup ties, commencing at the end of October, the Kent League - with only 16 teams - then gave Erith Town six successive home games, which included a Kent Senior Trophy tie.

The winter months have been kind to clubs this season but some clubs are faced to endure some lengthy midweek trips in February, but why?

Although Deal Town reached the national fourth round of the FA Vase this season, they are forced with lengthy midweek trips to Tunbridge Wells and Thamesmead Town, although the Kent League have been sensible, almost, by giving them a home derby against Ramsgate on Tuesday 15th February, which should attract a good gate - if the fans brave the cold snap.

Ramsgate, however, travel to Erith Town on Monday 7th February and eight days later, Hythe Town travel to Slade Green and Whitstable Town travel to Thamesmead Town.

Would it be more sensible if club's got local derbies in midweek and not during the full brunt of winter?  If they played these games in March and April, I am sure this would attract bigger attendances.

Why have Thamesmead only played 14 league games and Sporting Bengal United have played 21 and Beckenham Town and Sevenoaks Town twenty?

These are questions the Kent League clubs would like answered.

Erith Town's general manager Ian Birrell said: "Why did we play Tunbridge Wells on a Monday evening in the middle of January is anyone's guess.

"Those of us that were here for the Herne Bay midweek match last month will realise what a pointless exercise it was in terms of the weather - bitterly cold.

"When the Kent League realise that the sensible option is to put games in during sensible months then it will be better for all concerned.

"We found it amazing when the Herne Bay officials said they had not been given a midweek home game during the original fixture list.

"Apparently the ruling is that if a game is called off then it is played the following month during midweek - in that case why have some clubs played so few matches?"

High profile Ramsgate manager Jim Ward added: "I can't really get my head around the whole situation.

"It comes up every year in the Kent League.  It always happens and I don't understand it in as much as there's only sixteen teams in the league now and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work it out.

"We've got one of our longest journey's to Erith Town on a Monday night in February - what's that all about?"

Ward gave Kent League officials something they can all sit around a table and discuss.  It's only common sense!

"Why don't they have the London teams playing against each other midweek and the East Kent sides playing against each other and leave the travelling on a Saturday?"

Ward revealed all of his squad come from the Thanet area with one player commuting from Maidstone.

With Ryman Premier League side Tonbridge Angels only five miles down the road, a Tunbridge Wells spokesman added his concern that his club's home games repeatedly clash with the Angels, thus losing support and more importantly revenue.

He added: "The repeated fixture clashes with the Angels obviously do not help our gates either.

"I cannot understand why Fred Altree at the Kent League has completely ignored the fact that we have a Ryman Premier League club down the road and this oversight has clearly cost us support and revenue.

"More pressure needs to be brought to bare on him to rectify the matter next season.

"Remarkably we have even our Easter Monday home derby against Sevenoaks scheduled for the same time that the Angels are at home to Worthing.  I think a morning kick off is called for?"

Please credit article to Stephen McCartney - www.kentishfootball.co.uk