How do you follow a league when there is a yawning gulf of games-played between first and second? Ed White examines the scheduling causing headaches for local teams.
There’s an old cliché often spouted out by footballing analysts, managers, or fans up and down the country.
“The league table doesn’t lie,” they say.
Well, scouring through the tables, those five words are getting increasingly challenged.
Fixture backlogs are affecting teams every season, creating an unbalance to the positions and leaving supporters unsure on what an earth is going to happen.
Postponements are becoming a frequent problem. Pitches are failing to hold up to the battering they are given. And the severe weather conditions seem to bag a new “worst since records began” label each year.
But, that is not the reason for some teams lagging eight games behind rivals.
Scheduling is a tough job for any league secretary, with each club asking for differing demands.
But many in charge are failing to keep the table easy to connect with.
Take the Northern Counties East League for example. Table topping Tadcaster Albion have had a superb season, but Paul Marshall’s men have had the luxury of clearing many matches in the first half of the season. They have played 34 of their 44 matches already.
However, Brighouse Town, Albion’s main title rivals, sit in fifth having taken to the field eight times less.
That would be understandable had Brighouse been out of action for the last two months due to the weather. Instead, they have played six matches in 2014.
How are interested spectators expected to follow a league when there is such a disparity between the two leading clubs?
Yes, in one way it adds intrigue for the end of season and they are multiple cup games that have to be played before teams get knocked out. But the imbalance in the table causes a bemusement that can only have a negative outlook on the league.
Why haven’t the power that be realised there will be a spate of postponements mid-way through the season and structured the league accordingly? It can’t be that hard to ensure more matches were played when the weather, and light, was good earlier in the season.
Looking across to the Harrogate & District League, Kirk Deighton Rangers, another team with a strong chance of silverware, have played just nine league matches so far.
It’s the 20th of February. Their season has run for six months and they have only completed nine league matches. It’s like they are running a steeplechase with the 10 high hurdles to finish down the home straight.
Again, up to the Evo-Stik First Division North, Harrogate Railway have now not played for more than a month. This weekend, they are fixtureless again.
It’s no surprise people are getting lost by leagues and clubs at local level when confusion reigns so strongly.
PS: Lizzy Yarnold’s exceptional gold medal in the skeleton bob at Sochi proves once again what a brilliant idea Sport England’s talent spotting scheme was. Yarnold dreamed as a kid of following in Denise Lewis’ heptathlon footsteps. Plucked from athletics obscurity, her hard work speeding down the dry bobsleigh track in Bath has paid off in abundance.