GFC facing £15k bill after home game called off
There was consternation and frustration at Footes Lane on Saturday, as the match between Guernsey and Raynes Park Vale was called off little more than an hour before kick off on safety grounds.
Referee Reece Pinchback carried out an inspection soon after his arrival at the ground, just before 1pm, and quickly decided that some areas of the pitch were too soft for the game to proceed as scheduled at 2pm.
Guernsey Raiders had played a rugby match against Bury St Edmunds on the previous evening and there had been heavy rainfall overnight.
It is thought the higher-than-usual water table caused by frequent downpours over an extended period caused the pitch to drain far more slowly than usual.
Some last-minute sanding of problem patches did nothing to convince the referee that the venue was ready to host an Isthmian league football match.
GFC director Nic Legg estimated at £15,000 the cost to the club of travel, accommodation and the hiring of Footes Lane for the rearranged fixture, as under league rules, Guernsey are obliged to cover visiting teams’ expenses.
‘It’s a massive amount of money, so it’s very disappointing,’ he said, ‘and it’s frustrating that we were given the impression that the surface would be playable. We’ve not had a game called off here in eight years, so despite the bad weather, we were confident the game would go ahead. We’ve certainly played on worse but ultimately, it’s the referee’s decision.’
He explained that the Isthmian League rules require any match cancellation to be declared by a level-three referee, of which there are none in Guernsey.
However, he admitted that it was possible for the club to communicate the state of the pitch to an opponent prior to travel, with a view to the clubs agreeing mutually to a postponement.
Raynes Park Vale could have gone top of the table with a win on Saturday and chairman John Dalton said he intended to submit a complaint to the league as a result of the late cancellation.
‘We’re challenging for the title and now people have got to take time off work and stay over for a midweek game,’ he said.
‘We understand Guernsey are paying for the costs and they clearly wanted the game on but I don’t understand why the pitch wasn’t looked at, at 7am.’
He said he hoped the complaint would result in ‘things being put in place so that it never happens again’ and that the rearranged match would be played on a Saturday.
‘We’re geared up for playing on Saturdays,’ he said.
‘We’re prepping ourselves for the run-in and January and February – which is when the game is probably going to be played – are very big months for us.’
The next Guernsey home match is scheduled for Saturday 30 December against Sutton Common Rovers.
The club, along with the Guernsey Rugby Club and other sporting entities, hires Footes Lane for each use but by a long-standing agreement, the rugby club has first choice when it comes to scheduling.
Legg said the club would be ‘in charge of our own destiny’ when it moves to Victoria Avenue and a 3G playing surface, expected to happen for the 2025/26 season.