Pitch inspections can be a pain in the grass

FC Halifax Town supporters at The Shay.
FC Halifax Town supporters at The Shay.

The pitch at The Shay has been a source for fierce debate among Town fans this week.

Plenty of opinions have been swirling around the issue, but one thing most people would probably agree on is that it would have been better if the referee had made the decision earlier in the day.

On this occasion the distance between the two teams was only the relatively short hop from Halifax to Harrogate, but there were still supporters who had set off for The Shay, only to find out they’d have to go all the way back again without seeing a ball being kicked.

Next time it could be Town against Colwyn Bay or Workington against Oxford City.

The Shaymen travel to Gloucester on Tuesday night, but what if the same fate befalls that game and it only gets called off an hour before kick-off?

You’ll be able to hear the collective groan of the fans as far away as the Skircoat Road if they have to turn back on themselves on the M5.

Surely there’s a case for introducing some kind of standard inspection across the leagues so everyone knows the situation in good time.

You only have to look at the farcical scenes surrounding the Poland v England World Cup qualifier back in October to see how indecisive the man in the middle can be in those situations.

On that occasion, the referee was doing the breaststroke onto the pitch among the jellyfish and seahorses to ascertain whether the pitch was playable while England fans watched on having shelled out for a flight to Eastern Europe.

It musn’t be beyond the control of those in charge of the game to organise a system where a pitch inspection is carried out, say, at least three hours before kick-off for all fixtures in any doubt.

If, like the players at this level, the referees are busy working during the day, why not employ retired officials as inspectors who then have the final say over whether a game goes ahead, and let them do so at a reasonable time.

That way, everyone concerned is fully aware of the situation well in advance and there would be far fewer wasted journeys.

The disadvantage would be you may get more games called off than if you left the checks a little later, but there are plenty of dates in the football caldendar, especially before Christmas, where games can be shifted to allow more space later for rearranged fixtures.

Any problems with the Shay pitch don’t appear to have an easy answer, but inspecting it and others across the country could surely be made a less controversial part of the game.

Follow Halifax Town reporter Tom Scargill on Twitter for live updates throughout every Shaymen match - and check www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/halifaxtown for reports after the game.