I, like all supporters, was surprised and very, very disappointed by last night’s late decision to postpone our match and feel we owe you all a comprehensive explanation.
By way of background, The Hive pitch sits low on the site and by design will hold water in a 1 in 100-year flood eventuality. Underneath the North Stand is a 200+ cubic meter flood attenuation system which is designed to hold water under the stand and slow the release of the drainage system to avoid flooding. In the training area north of the pitch is a designated flood storage reservoir which is part of the EA designed flood protection system which was built just before we took over the site. Supporters would have seen this in operation in the past when the EA opened the sluice gates so the brook running through the site could flood the area and alleviate any issues for local properties.
There is no real problem with the pitch that a dry spell and a bit of work would not quickly resolve but we have barely had a day without rain since September and the forecast 1 in 100-year event has now become our reality. The simple problem is the rain is coming down faster and in greater quantity than this controlled system can drain and hence the pooling of water on the pitch.
Last Tuesday, the playing surface suffered badly due to the torrential downpour which saw 8mm of rainfall on the pitch in forty minutes during the first half of our match. The pitch churned in certain areas which led to the match being abandoned and it was therefore important that urgent reparations were carried out before last night’s game to restore the surface to the level and standard expected and required.
I called a meeting of the ground staff and management last week to come up with an action plan to ensure that there was no repeat and to take all measures possible to mitigate any future issues. Everyone rallied and we set out to positively tackle the problem.
On Thursday an engineer was called to the site and an inspection of the drains confirmed that the system was not faulty but the very high water table meant that water on the surface was just not draining away quickly enough to relieve the pitch. We needed a couple of dry days and luckily this time, the various forecasts were positive. We had already applied a wetting agent to improve the water flow through the soil and because the ground was too soft for our normal machinery, we purchased more hand equipment to work on the surface. We also spoke with the FA and agreed to an early postponement of the London Bees match, which prevented any further damage and allowed breathing space for the water to drain away. The FA was very supportive and pragmatic in their approach.
Fortunately, on this occasion, the weather forecast was correct and our ground staff and management team rolled up their sleeves and got to work slitting and aerating the pitch to remove the last of the sitting water and prepare the playing surface for the match. A further inspection on Tuesday morning showed that nearly all the water had now drained away and the strong winds aided in drying and firming the surface. We still had good grass coverage over most of the pitch, including the crucial goal areas, and all seemed to be positive.
We were in constant communication with Dagenham and at 10am informed them that we could see no problem with the game going ahead as long as the forecast, which showed a maximum of 0mm-1.8mm of rain in the evening, remained accurate and we did not get a repeat of last week’s deluge.
I have to say our staff were magnificent and did a great job in quickly brushing and marking the surface and at our 4pm briefing, it was reported that everything was good to go…..so what went wrong?
Well frankly, I’m just not sure, as events then took a sudden and very much unexpected turn which I still cannot fathom.
Darren and our team were happy to play the match as were the visiting team when they arrived and immediately prepared for their usual warm-up routine. We did not perceive any problems nor see a need to communicate any alarm to supporters; as far as we were concerned there was no issue whatsoever and everyone was looking forward to a good game.
At around 6pm the referee arrived and immediately expressed issues and caution over previous events and cancellations. He identified an area around the side of the centre circle which was less firm than the rest of the pitch and was worried that a further downpour would make this part of the pitch unplayable and possibly unsafe for players. I came over and spoke with him personally to positively reassure him but I think by then he had already hardened on his view. I pointed out that hardly any rain was forecast and both managers confirmed they were happy to go ahead with the match but the decision is the referees to make and we must respect his authority in this regard. Put simply, he decided the risk of further rain and abandonment outweighed the desire of us all to stage the match.
I have tried to fairly and transparently represent last night’s events and although I don’t agree with the decision taken, my note is not intended as a criticism as these matters are quite subjective.
I’m sure the referee made his decision based on his experience and knowledge in the game and it’s his decision to make and ours to respect.
Of course, we are all desperately upset at this outcome which has difficult implications for our team, who now face a very tough and congested end to the season. I also feel very apologetic for the supporters who were so inconvenienced by this turn of events but I genuinely am not sure what more we could have done.
It remains for us to apologise for the inconvenience, roll up our sleeves and get to work preparing for Saturday’s game……..I hope you will all keep the faith and we get a much needed dry spell!
Thanks as always, for your support.