FA reject the Sussex County League’s plea to extend season

Arundel FC's Mill Road ground remains under water
Arundel FC's Mill Road ground remains under water

The desperate plea by the Sussex County League to extend their season has been rejected by the Football Association.

League chiefs lodged the application to the FA last week after suffering one of the worst spells of fixture disruptions in their history.

The number of games that have had to be postponed because of the relentless wet weather now stands at a staggering 357 games across the three main divisions.

Committee members were hopeful of being granted at least a week’s extension but today (Tuesday), chairman Steve Nealgrove said: “Unfortunately our application, along with a number of other Step 5 leagues was declined.

“They have deferred it until March 1 when they will review it. From our point of view we find it ridiculous, we have clubs who haven’t played for weeks and whose pitches remain saturated.

“We have lost 357 games to postponements across divisions 1, 2 and 3 and we’re at the point where we’ve only got one more spare mid-week for games after last weekend’s wash-out.”

The only game to take place in the SCFL across all the divisions, including the three reserve leagues, on Saturday saw Storrington beat Saltdean United 3-1. Eastbourne Town and Rye United managed to play their Sussex Senior Cup tie last night (Monday), Eastbourne winning 1-0, but although there has been some improvement in the weather, pitches remain waterlogged.

The SCFL held a committee meeting on Monday where it was decided the Division 3 Cup games would no longer be played over two legs, instead it will be the usual knock out.

The John O’Hara Cup final will also be pushed forward from its usual Good Friday slot to the May Bank Holiday Monday to give the two clubs in the final an extra weekend.

As it stands all league games will have to be completed by Saturday April 26. Cup games have no final date for completion, meaning league bosses will consider moving other cups forward if no extension is granted next month.

“We’re very close to a situation where some clubs will have to play three games a week,” Mr Nealgrove said. “We are doing everything we can to maximise the amount of days we have available to play league matches but we are running out of available dates.

“We’re still hopeful of getting an extension from the FA, even just a week would really help us and our clubs get matches completed.”

Both East Preston and Eastbourne United AFC are still in the FA Vase, the first time two SCFL teams have reached the last 16 of the competition. They, as well as clubs like Langley Wanderers and Ferring, who have played just eight and nine league games respectively, are likely to be some of the worse affected clubs.