Bognor fans angry as Boxing Day derby at Lewes gets late call-off

Bognor fans had a wasted trip across Sussex for the Boxing Day clash at Lewes - which was deemed NOT to be in danger of postponement, only to be called off an hour or so before the scheduled kick-off.

Friday, 27th December 2019, 9:02 am
Updated Friday, 27th December 2019, 9:10 pm
Lewes FC posted this picture on Twitter to show the pitch was in a reasonable condition at lunchtime / Picture: Lewes FC Twitter

A number of supporters felt that, given the amount of rain that fell during the day, an earlier decision to call off the game would have been possible - and reasonable.

The postponement means Bognor have not played since December 10 and have lost their past three matches to rain - not the ideal build-up to the Worthing game at Nyewood Lane on New Year's Day.

Bognor coach Robbie Blake said: "I wasn’t happy - the pitch was playable when I walked on it."

The club's unofficial messageboard included a thread on the postponement and many were not happy. Lewes, meanwhile, have attempted to explain the process which led to the game being called off so late, saying they took reasonable steps to avoid a late change.

Lee said: "Someone has to answer for this, we were only five miles away ... why was not a local referee called in to look at the pitch at noon? I do not expect my £10 (coach fare) back as we did the return journey but to be honest it has put me off travelling away again."

Dave Robinson, who organises the Rocks away travel for fans, said: "I can only apologise for the waste of a journey, day, time and money. I can assure you I did everything possible to avoid this scenario. At NO TIME did Lewes feel that a pitch inspection was necessary. It would seem that as a club they were hoping for a bumper crowd. No consideration to the many fans who would be travelling by their own means as there was no public transport!

"This unfortunately shows Lewes in their true colours with NO respect for the real supporters who follow Non League football. Many apologies again.

"The conduct of Lewes in this matter beggars belief. I was in contact during the morning with our club and Lewes and at no time did Lewes feel a pitch inspection was necessary. I arrived by my own means on this occasion to find at 2.15pm the ref had only just arrived and the game was off.

"Lewes have shown no respect to fans here whatsoever. I really hope it hasn't put people off travelling in the future as I know the club management really appreciate your backing. Thanking you all again for your patience, support and understanding in a very frustrating situation."

Lewes said on Twitter they had not acted unreasonably on what was a difficult daty for deciding whether a match could go ahead.

They tweeted: "An explanation for today's postponement. At 12:20 the pitch looked like this (see picture at top of article) and the weather forecast was for light rain in the afternoon.

"It then proceeded to rain heavily for an hour. The match referee was held up in traffic, which meant he didn't arrive at the ground until almost 2pm, shortly after which he decided to call the game off.

"Coaches from both sides felt the game was playable, even then, so for those who said it was "obvious" the game would be off, we would respectfully disagree. We're sorry for all fans who had a wasted journey, but our volunteers did their best to get the game on."

Bognor officials posted on the messageboard as late as 12.10pm to say there was no pitch inspection planned, but with a warning that heavy rain was falling.

Fan Wilsonia said: "No-one thought of the fans as usual (not BRTFC's fault of course). This is one of the reasons why I don't go to away games and think twice about walking to home games when the forecast is iffy. Hoping for better on New Year's Day."

Bognor match secretary Pete Helsby said: "Unfortunately we were advised that everything was ok with no pitch inspection planned. It was one of those situations where you are guided by the home club.

"The weather certainly deteriorated late morning and Simon (Cook, Rocks secretary) told me that on the way down to Lewes the rain in Worthing was torrential. I presume as it was drifting towards Lewes they had the same later. It appears that as soon as the match referee inspected the pitch he decided it was not playable.

"As a club there is absolutely nothing we can do about these situations. We are in contact during the morning and have to guided by the home club. It is frustrating for the management, players and supporters but it is what it is and it leaves me with another match to re-arrange."

Lee Roberts of Rocks Radio said on Twitter: "Got to the ground at 2pm only one area of the pitch looked bad, the groundstaff said they could clear it but the ref called the game off. The weather cleared up just after 3 so it could have been played. The supporters coach still has to be paid for so the rocks lose money."

Dion Sampson added: "We got the news via Twitter just as we got to Falmer turn off in the car, to leave it that late with the amount of rain we had already was poor."

Darren Crisp said: "I had my doubts mid morning based on the weather app on my phone but felt reassured enough by Lewes' insistence on social media that a pitch inspection wasn't planned so my lad and I boarded the coach. Poor form to leave it until 45 minutes before kick off to call it off."

No new date for the game has yet been set.