Marley pitch swaps could lead to huge expense for clubs

A typical recent scene at Marley

The last two weekends have seen a complete whiteout of the pitches at Marley.
But recent months have seen some teams swapping to an alternative pitch when their own has been deemed unfit to play.
This could cause major problems for clubs, with the danger of them falling foul of invalidating their insurance and facing potentially huge claims should there be a serious injury or incident.
At Marley, clubs have a contract with Bradford Council and are allocated a pitch, which is theirs for the season.
They can only change pitches with the permission of the Parks Department and the staff at Marley cannot give permission for a change at short notice.

Simon Todd (Picture: David S Brett)

Keighley & District Referees Association Secretary Simon Todd said: “We are aware of instances where clubs found that their allocated pitch was unfit and had swapped their fixture to an adjoining pitch, which was fit, and not in use on that day.
“It would appear this happened when clubs had not been prepared for bad weather and the opposition and referee had arrived at the ground.
“The club have then ‘persuaded’ the referee to play on another pitch that was fit.
“But we live in a society where people are encouraged to make claims for injuries that are sustained in various areas of their lives – ‘If there is blame there is a claim,’ etc.”
Prior to the 2011-2012 season, a senior referee, who was also an officer of Keighley FA, was employed by Bradford Council to decide on pitch fitness and other issues at Marley on match days.
This stopped at the start of last season and, according to Bradford Council, the decision about the fitness of a pitch is down to the referee on matchday, except on days such as the last two weekends when the council has closed all pitches.
Mr Todd said the referees association was concerned about possible insurance implications if an incident or injury happened and sought clarification from the national Referees’ Association.
Chairman of External Affairs Arthur Smith told them: “The home team have the responsibility to direct the match official to the hired pitch.
“Once the pitch inspection is carried out and decision on fitness is made the match proceeds or not.
“As this is a local authority pitch allocated to a team, it appears they cannot then look for another pitch to play on for health and safety and insurance reasons.
“There can be no authority placed on the match official to enter into the pitch hiring arrangements and, therefore, once the referee has made a decision as to the fitness of the pitch, that is the end of the matter.”

5 thoughts on “Marley pitch swaps could lead to huge expense for clubs

  1. Many thanks to Simon for the helpful guidance.
    The blame/claim culture concerning insurance is a sad reflection on society today. Clubs using their initiative to get games played ought to be applauded and insurance companies ought to be more flexible to accommodate this. If alternative pitches are deemed fit for play, then that should be enough. Bureaucracy gone made if you ask me. It’s little wonder with some of the weather that we have nowadays that we have a fixture pile up at the end of every season, without fail.
    Absolutely ridiculous!

    • Well said Kev, I felt like posting yesterday but held my tongue and you have kicked me into action. Its a sad fact there are more pitches at Marley than teams these days so its infuriating that our pitch has been barely playable since the start of the winter due to overuse. Our constant official requests to change pitches are ignored whilst we are surrounded by pristine, barely played on, surfaces. Last game, every pitch at Marley was playable except ours and we were the only team playing there that morning. What would you expect us to do when 25 lads (half of which have travelled from Leeds) plus a ref are all raring to go? The best comment from Simon is about the refs being ‘persuaded’- he was more likely to persuade us as he wanted paying. It would all be quite laughable were it not for the fact we pay around £700 a year for use of Marley and we have to clean all the changing rooms afterwards. Its depressing but no wonder the place is near deserted every Saturday and Sunday.

  2. Totally agree with Kev & Mick. And another good reason to shave the size of each league down. What is deemed fit today seems a far cry from what used to be deemed fit and I’m not sure who is to blame for this. There! ive said it. Blame! Why any grown man would blame an injury on a game not being played on the correct field or even in the correct town or village totally baffles me. If you are one of those people and you are reading this, stop playing the game because you’re not welcome. You’re spoiling the pleasure of everybody who thinks anything about the local game. Saturday is football day and if you think playing on another pitch is likely to damage your health, go and hang your boots up before the game is lost. If we had 4 gams a year postponed back in the 80’s & 90’s I’d pbe surprised. These days it only has to rain for a day or two for everything to be shut down. I’ve played on pitches where the mud literally came up over your ankles. I’m not saying it was pretty to watch or play in but we got the games out of the way and ended the season on time. Maybe it’s time the club officials, match officials and players alike stopped being so precious about their pitches and got back to using them for the purpose they were intended and that is to provide a group of likeminded individuals with a place to let off some steam and keep fit and make friends for life.

  3. I agree with all of the above and have held my tongue too since reading this. but we were, as Simon knows, embroiled in this problem earlier in the season through no fault of our own. The rule is ridiculous and pressure needs to be put on the insurance companies who enforce the rules to change it. I have 2 teams play at Marley, usually on opposite weeks. but on this occasion both were at home. But because I hadn’t been allocated a secondary pitch for that sunday, the ref said he couldn’t ref one of my games, despite everyone having turned up and the pitch playable. you cant get hold of anyone from parks on a sunday, the guys in the office say its not their remit, so what are you supposed to do? So now everytime I have a fixture clash, like this coming sunday, I have to make sure I have it IN WRITING from the parks dept that I have been allocated a secondary pitch. Beaurocracy gone mad! Lets bring some common sense back into football before people get sick of the whole thing and find something better to do.

  4. Why can’t an agreement be reached and put in place by all clubs and their committees, the WRCFA and local councils that under such circumstances, all the teams affected automatically play on another pitch that has already provisionally been allocated? Would that be too difficult to set in place prior to the start of each season?

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