THE effects of Storm Dennis caused almost a complete washout of local sport at the weekend.

One solitary football match, a 2-2 draw between Mawnan and Camborne School of Mines in the Trelawny League Premiership on Falmouth School’s 3G pitch, survived, with the South West Peninsula League suffering its first complete washout of fixtures for two years.

The storm was so bad that even rugby fell foul of it, with St Austell’s Tribute Western Counties West match at home to Wellington, which the Saints won 15-14 thanks to a last-gasp try, the only match in Cornwall to beat the weather.

Hockey was also hit, with Falmouth’s first team unable to extend their lead at the top of Premier Division 2B after their match against Plymouth University at Penryn College was called off, with Camborne School of Mines’ game on the same pitch also falling by the wayside.

Rugby games being called off is a rarity, and with their smaller divisions, catching up on postponed games is not too problematic.

The same applies for hockey teams, who play around 25 games a season, with winter break included, on artificial pitches.

But football, with its 50-match seasons on grass pitches through the entire winter period, is a different issue.

With games continually being postponed and rearranged for the spring months, and with the weather continuing to wreak havoc, it is not uncommon to see teams play a handful of matches over the winter and then have to make up for it in the final two months of the season.

Fishermen set for busy spell

Porthleven have been heavily affected by the swathe of postponements this season, which continued yesterday when tonight’s scheduled game at Falmouth Town was called off and has now been rescheduled for Monday, April 20.

Despite the season starting six-and-a-half months ago, the Fishermen have played just 20 of their 38 South West Peninsula League Premier West games, leaving the side with the prospect of playing their remaining 18 games between now and the end-of-season deadline, imposed by the FA, of April 25.

Porthleven co-manager Graham Blake was upbeat about the situation, saying: “I quite like the idea of playing Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday. At the start of the season we put quite a run together when we were playing two games a week. I think it suits our team as well as once you play all the time you gel a bit more as a team rather than just training.

“I personally don’t mind it and I don’t think the players mind it. The only issue you do get is injuries from playing week in, week out, but that’s the joys of having a good, young second team as well.

“There’s plenty of opportunities for youngsters with all these games coming up and they might get their opportunity.”

Search for solutions

With almost no football to play or watch, the age-old debate began on social media on Saturday as to how the backlog of fixtures can be avoided in future.

The Packet conducted a Twitter poll asking people what should be done, with 52.7 per cent of respondents believing that more fixtures should be staged in the drier, summer months of August to October to get more games out of the way.

The SWPL has adopted this method for the last couple of seasons, with some teams playing as many as half of their 38 fixtures before the end of October.

While this has helped some teams – St Austell managed 19 games before the end of October – other teams still struggled to pack the games in, with Porthleven only managing 13.

Falmouth Packet:

The Trelawny League Premiership game between Mawnan and Camborne SoM was the only football game to go ahead in west Cornwall on Saturday. Picture by Colin Higgs

The fixture planners also have to contend with early rounds of cup competitions, with Saltash United playing nine FA Cup, FA Vase, Cornwall Senior Cup, Cornwall Charity Cup and Walter C Parson League Cup ties before the end of November.

The Mawnan v Camborne SoM game showed how artificial pitches can be useful in getting a game on, and with 25 per cent of poll respondents plumping for 3G pitches, could they play a bigger role in the future?

The answer is possibly, but not right now. There are only ten 3G pitches in the county – plus one on its way in Helston – with even fewer, if any, likely to have the spectator facilities required to meet ground grading regulations. The costs of maintaining a 3G pitch are also on the expensive end of the scale.

Summer switch?

Just under 14 per cent opted for the more extreme option of switching from a winter season of

August to April to a summer one, likely from February to October.

While this would almost certainly solve the weather problem, such a drastic change for an established structure, which would need to be replicated countrywide, is highly unlikely to happen any time soon, if ever.

It is, however, an option that Blake agrees with.

“Why do we play these games in the winter?” he said. “I don’t get it, especially for kids. My boy plays for Helston under-16s, he’s literally played about four games all season, that’s it.

“It’s ridiculous, no-one wants to be standing out in the rain, the wind and the cold, I don’t get why we don’t play in the summer.

“I don’t think they’re ever going to change the leagues, it’s always going to be a winter sport, but I’m a big believer of 3G as well. I think if every town had a 3G we might get somewhere.

“Even if there’s midweek games you can play. Most towns are getting them, Helston’s getting one.”

Another possible option is fewer games, either from smaller divisions or fewer cup competitions.

A SWPL team that plays the maximum number of games in the Cornwall Senior Cup, League Cup and Cornwall Charity Cup, plus at least one FA Vase game, would play 16 cup ties, which in addition to 38 league games, would total a 54-game season.

As excellent as the Charity Cup is for supporting worthy causes, questions may need to be asked as to whether SWPL teams need to play in that, the Senior Cup and the League Cup in their current forms, given the same 22 Cornish teams will play each other in all three.

The Cornwall FA is said to be discussing changes to the Senior Cup, while ideas to have Senior Cup first-round losers contest the Charity Cup or make the Charity Cup a pre-season competition have been informally suggested elsewhere.

Reducing the league to 18 teams would see four games dropped immediately, but that would go against the FA’s desire to have 20 teams across all Step 6 divisions.

There is also the issue of loss of revenue – even two fewer teams means two fewer home games.

One bone of contention among grassroots football is the FA-enforced end-of-season date, which is April 25.

The FA require all non-league divisions within its pyramid to be completed by that date in order for it to complete the mapping of next season’s divisions by the end of May.

But several commenters have suggested that allow the season to run for another two or three weeks into May would ease the end-of-season congestion significantly. Indeed, even a two-week extension would comfortably allow an extra four games per team.

Every solution comes with its own problems and pitfalls, but with the situation not likely like improve soon, something has to give way before the clubs do.