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Extra-time needed to solve Northern League backlog
In a desperate attempt to get their game with Norton played tonight, Darlington are appealing for volunteers to help clear their pitch of snow. Should the match be postponed, however, it would be the fifth Quakers have lost to the elements in what's been a weather-hit season.
They, however, are by far not the worst hit Northern League club. Floods and freezing temperatures have contrived to leave clubs looking at a major fixture backlog following a glut of postponements.
All of Monday's and last night's games were postponed and already some of tonight's 12-game programme has been frozen off.
There are 15 Saturdays remaining, but Shildon, for example, still have 26 league games to play. Whitley Bay have 24 to fulfil while Celtic Nation have still played only 19 of 46 league matches.
Spennymoor, including cup games, could have another 35 matches to play.
There's a 100 days to go until the end of the scheduled campaign and an extension to the season seems the sensible solution.
Northern League officials are considering seeking permission from the Football Association to play beyond the current April 27 end date - surely they will, what other option is there? The NL have a duty of care to their members and it's only right that they seek to protect their best interests.
League chairman Mike Amos argues that these are "exceptional circumstances" so is considering putting a call in to Wembley. How receptive the FA will be is unknown. As Darlington discovered last May, the FA are not known for listening to a reasoned point of view.
"We might have to approach the FA and ask them if we can extend the season," said Amos. "We hope that the FA will be sympathetic, considering that we went up to 24 clubs at their request by taking Darlington and Durham City. We'd never have said no to those two clubs coming down to our league, even though it meant four extra games.
"The backlog has put us in a very difficult position, and we feel that maybe there should be an extra week added on to the season. Looking at it from the league's point of view, we don't want to harm the chances of our clubs in the Vase by making them play three games a week.
"24 clubs isn't really workable, but these are exceptional circumstances, and it is where we find ourselves."
Exceptional circumstances require an exceptional solution. That said, extending the season is not wholly unusual, it's been done previously.
It appears to be the best solution, the only solution, to a problem almost entirely not of the Northern League's making.
With two extra teams in Division One, the league should have begun earlier than August 18. Easily said in hindsight, though.
The reality is that some Division One clubs are facing the prospect of playing Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday. As Spennymoor boss Jason Ainsley said in the Echo on Saturday, such a scenario would make a mockery of the league - how competitive would teams become if forced into such a situation?
Furthermore, it would be great to see another North-East win at Wembley, but playing three times a week, every week, would have a detrimental effect on those in pursuit of FA Vase glory.
Opponents of the extension may say that the goalposts are being moved mid-season, which is a fair comment.
It could also be said that at the beginning of the season clubs were aware of the potential consequences of progressing in a cup competition.
But the likes of Spennymoor should not be penalised for being successful. They remain in three cup competitions, but cannot be held responsible for matches being postponed. Nor were they involved in the decision to allow both Darlington and Durham into Division One.
Should an extension be sought, however, serious thought should be given to the final round of games - they should all be played on the same day.
Otherwise, in theory, it would be possible for a team involved in crunch game, affecting the title or relegation, going into the match knowing exactly how many points were required, safe in the knowledge their rival's season is already over.
That said, some players' contracts in the NL end on April 30 - would every club be able to pay a player's wage beyond that date?