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Are the walkovers a sign of crisis?

Inside Track | Published:

FIVE walkovers and counting.

Sylvans' Luke Staples on the ball in the midweek FNB Priaulx League game at Northfield. His club had sufficient selection options in midweek but could not raise a side for today's scheduled game in Alderney. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 23885165)

That, football folks, is the sorry state that this season’s Priaulx League and associated cups has thrown up to give those who say things are on the slide all the evidence that they need to moan about the state of the Guernsey club game.

But, are walkovers reliable evidence, or merely a consequence of modern-day life when football and playing it is not the be-all and end-all of everything, if it ever was?

On the face of it, it has not been a good February for the game.

Last week Bels quietly allowed themselves to default on a Stranger Cup group game against Rangers.

Yes, given the two teams’ lowly Group B positions, it was a meaningless affair, but it should have been played.

It was the second time this season Bels have conceded a walkover, the previous time – back in October – when they were unable to raise a team for a home league against Rovers.

Then, this week, Sylvans drew level with Bels in the ‘walkover’ standings by defaulting on the scheduled league game in Alderney.

They had previously failed to fulfil a Rawlinson Cup game at the start of the campaign.

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Throw in Vale Rec’s controversial concession of league points to St Martin’s back in November and the senior game has created an unwanted record in its 14th decade.

There was a time, of course, when conceding a walkover would, under Guernsey Football Association rules, merit possible expulsion from the league in question.

But that legislation has long gone out of the window.

Whether any of these new walkovers would have happened had the old rule still been in place, it is impossible to say, but one would expect not.

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What, though, really lies behind this unwanted scenario?

Is it a shortage of players, is it rank-bad club administration?

Is it modern players not giving a fig about what embarrassment it might cause a great old club, or is the blame down to a game that is asking too much of itself in terms of playing ever-more fixtures and games?

Are there simply too many teams?

The answer probably lies in a combination of all these factors.

There will be many who point to a sport facing a looming crisis and it is all Guernsey FC’s fault, but on both accounts you should throw the idea out with your new £2.50 bin sacks.

How, then, should we react?

With care and understanding, I’d say.

It would be wrong to get too het-up over the defaults, but at the same time it is no time to simply shrug the shoulders and say ‘it is what it is’.

Some analysis is required by both the GFA and the Guernsey Football League Management board, while its member clubs need to ask themselves some questions.

The view from this chair though, and with the benefit of serious study of the 13 and a bit decades of the GFA’s 125 years behind me, is that the game is in OK health but the administrating and funding of it is a very real concern.

On the playing side, there are problems, but they mostly lie in the areas of development and youth player retention.

There is no crisis (yet) at the top end but, and this is where the biggest concerns lie, it has never been harder to run a football club with – and this is important – 21st century expectations.

Some senior clubs are struggling for both cash and good people to keep them afloat. That is before they consider whether they have a decent team or not.

The challenges facing clubs have never been bigger.

How you solve that is a real head-scratcher for all of us, but if Guernsey football is not going to lose clubs of rich heritage and circa 100 years’ standing, those with the ultimate responsibility of fostering the game need to concentrate their minds and come up with some answers.

The Sports Commission may even have a role to play here, after all they sit on top of the island sporting pyramid.

n BACK in the black-and-white era of football, there was no Rossborough Guernsey FA Cup, so no big shocks like this week’s giant-killing of cup holders Vale Rec.

That result, in itself, goes a long way to underline that the senior game is doing OK.

But was Manzur Yew’s win over Vale Rec the biggest cup shock in the competition’s 15-year history, as this correspondent suggested on Wednesday?

Some readers have suggested Long Port were the biggest giant-killers of all, others said Rocquaine Pirates, who went all the way to the semis having beaten two Priaulx sides on the way.

Both, I admit, were big shocks, but surely cannot compare with Manzur Yew’s result.

Manzur’s team were a bonafide ‘Railway’ team with no recent Muratti stars tucked up their sleeve – and they defeated a side that has won the cup two years on the trot.

Rocquaine Pirates were, if I recall correctly, were stacked full of recent Sylvans Muratti men and as soon as they entered the competition looked nailed on to go a long way, which was not the case with Long Port, who defeated Rangers in a year when they finished top three in the Priaulx.

Now, in my book, they fit the bill of giant-slayers more so, even though they had some handy men with the likes of Micky Ogier, Wayne Duport, Adie Le Sauvage and Nick Holley.

Rob Batiste

By Rob Batiste
author

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