You would think over the last couple of weeks, we’d be used to news of postponed matches in the Irish League.
But it’s not the news that is upsetting people, it’s the way it’s delivered.
Last Wednesday saw the postponement of the County Antrim Shield Final, until a quick thinking person at the County Antrim FA decided that it should be moved to an alternative venue.
That sounds fair enough, you say, but at an afternoon’s notice? seriously? And on a working day.
It’s not inconceivable that a supporter planning to attend this match could have been travelling to The Oval straight from work, or possbily going home to have something to eat and heading straight to the ground.
I’m glad that the match got moved to another venue and got played, though not with the result obviously, but it was the sheer farcical nature that we wouldn’t find up until Wednesday lunchtime of the venue location that has turned the competition organisation into a farce.
There have been occassions in GAA where venues have been moved at a day’s notice because the pitch isn’t fit for use, why did the County Antrim FA not do likewise?
By announcing it on Tuesday, they would have had 24 hours in which to communicate the news.
By targeting the late night news, electronic media and early morning papers, the message of the change of venue can be communicated effectively to their target audience.
It’s not as if Linfield and Crusaders fans are being inconvenienced, as they are two Belfast clubs, who are travelling to an alternative Belfast venue.
So what then, of those people who would work in an environment where there is no internet access or local media consumption.
These people could potentially to the wrong ground to watch a football match.
If the County Antrim FA had planned to move venues in the event of The Oval not passing a pitch inspection, then arrangements and confirmation should have been made on Tuesday, not Wednesday lunchtime.
It’s not the bad news which annoys people, it’s the way it’s delivered.
Another example of that came today when the match bewtween Institute and Linfield was postponed at 1.50pm, 70 minutes before the 3pm kick-off, as many Linfield fans were well on their way to Derry from Belfast.
This, despite the pitch passing a pitch inspection earlier this morning by a local referee brought in to inspect the pitch.
So, why was this situation allowed to happen?
Why did the designated match referee Raymond Crangle not arrive at the stadium at an acceptable time to make a decision for himself, rather than letting someone else make it, only for him to over-rule it?
Will the IFA hold an inquiry into it, as to why visiting fans (and a visiting team) have been inconvenienced in this way?
I’m cynical, that they’ll do nothing, because Irish League referees don’t seem to have any accountability whatsoever, which is a dangerous situation to have.
I’m not having a go at Institute, as they’ve no doubt made every possible effort to get the game on, and their players and fans have been inconvenienced as well.
The postponement is disappointing, but it’s the sheer lack of courtesy that is even more disappointing.
At a time when the Irish League can’t afford to lose any fans, do those in charge really believe this is the proper way to treat their clientele.
It’s just basic customer service, complimented with an effective communication strategy.
Football is unique in relation to other industries in that they already have brand loyalty built in.
But loyalty can only go so far. If people get messed around, they won’t bother to go any more.
And like with all PR own goals involving local football, it always seems to be a short-sighted approach of those in charge which is to blame.