Farce continues as Stourbridge match is rescheduled twice on the same day

Stourbridge FC, Alvechurch and their fans have reacted with disbelief after rearranging their postponed Southern League play-off semi-final, only to have the date changed again within hours – with the league continuing to publicise a completely different date.

Both Stourbridge and Alvechurch announced earlier today (Wednesday) that tonight’s match had been postponed, before confirming a new date of tomorrow evening (Thursday).

But, in farcical scenes, the Southern League announced that the fixture, as well as the other semi-final between Kings Lynn and Stratford, would be played on Friday instead – the only day out of all those announced so far that the clubs themselves had not announced.

This was followed later by a further announcement from Stourbridge that they had now been instructed by the league to postpone the match again, moving it to next Monday at 15:00 instead, while Alvechurch said on Twitter they were “scared to tweet any new dates in case they change”.

Stourbridge, on their own Twitter account, said: “We had confirmation from the league that the Alvechurch game would be played tomorrow [Thursday]. The league have now instructed us to play Monday.”

However, as of this evening (Wednesday), the Southern League’s website still states that the match will go ahead on Friday evening.

Black Country Radio understands that the information on the league’s website is out of date and that the matches will instead go ahead on Monday, as per the latest announcements by Stourbridge and Alvechurch, though it remains unclear as to why the league have not kept their website up-to-date to reflect the updates given by both clubs given the ever-changing situation.

It’s also understood that Stourbridge were unable to host the match at its War Memorial Ground in Amblecote on Friday as its function room is booked for a private event, while the club also groundshares with Stourbridge Cricket Club, who already have the ground booked on Saturday – and Stourbridge FC were unwilling to give up their home advantage in the semi-final if they had been forced to play on Friday or Saturday, as the match would have to be moved to another venue.

The chaos heaps more embarrassment on the league over its handling of the matter after the original uncertainty yesterday (Tuesday) over the fixture’s initial date this evening (Wednesday), which led to Alvechurch announcing on Tuesday that the match had been postponed, with Stourbridge contradicting this by saying they were still in discussions with the league.

Both clubs then announced early this morning (Wednesday) that they were still awaiting confirmation as to whether to match would go ahead as planned, with both clubs then confirming the match had been called off just 10 hours before kick-off, sparking the chain of events and contradictory information in the hours since.

After the original postponement was confirmed, Stourbridge chairman Andy Pountney issued a strongly-worded statement on the club’s website which condemned the league’s handling of the issue, describing it as a “mess” and saying they were “disgusted”, even adding that he was considering withdrawing the club from the play-offs altogether in protest.

The play-off semi-final had originally been due to be played at 19:45 tonight (Wednesday) – the same time as the other semi-final between Kings Lynn and Stratford Town.

But yesterday (Tuesday), the league was notified by the Football Association that Stratford may have fielded an ineligible player in a recent game, sparking an urgent investigation.

The inquiry led to the Kings Lynn-Stratford game being postponed, as any punishment handed out to Stratford could result in a points deduction, which could alter the league standings and move Stratford out of the play-off places.

Although the matter and any potential implications for Stratford would not affect Stourbridge or Alvechurch, the league also postponed the Stourbridge-Alvechurch game as it wants all four teams to play their semi-finals at the same time to ensure neither match has the potential to influence the other, and to give both winners of the semi-finals the same amount of recovery time ahead of the play-off final, which was originally due to be played next Monday.

The semi-final being moved to Monday means the final will have to be postponed, with reports suggesting it will be played next Wednesday evening instead.

Dismayed fans have reacted with amazement and anger at the league’s handling of the situation, with one saying he’d been forced to ‘alter plans which had already been altered’ and others labelling the situation a “disgrace”, “havoc”, a “shambles”, “ridiculous”, “beyond a joke” and a “catastrophe”.

The league’s statement on its website said it “apologies for this situation occurring and the inconvenience that it has caused everyone”, though its information as to when the semi-final will be played continues to contradict that of Stourbridge and Alvechurch’s latest announcements.

Ironically there is still no word on the outcome of the investigation into Stratford Town, with the league’s website saying “the FA decision on the Stratford Town matter is expected by lunchtime today (Wednesday)” – yet no further updates had been provided by the end of the day.

However, even once the chaos is sorted out, further complications may arise next week, as the Northern League is being restructured, resulting in an additional play-off final being needed this season between the Northern League and Southern League play-off winners, called the ‘Super Final’.

If the Southern League play-off semi-finals do go ahead on Monday, the play-off final would likely be played on Wednesday, as the winners of the final then go through to the Super Final, which is due to be held on Saturday 11th May.

However, the Northern League play-off final takes place this Saturday between South Shields and Warrington, meaning the winner will have one week’s complete rest ahead of the Super Final, while the Southern League play-off final winners would end up play three matches in six days on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, potentially  putting them at a huge physical disadvantage.

Stourbridge added on Twitter: “We need to review what impact this has on players and fans.”

There has been no word from the Northern League so far as to whether there are any plans to postpone the Super Final given the situation.

The Northern League could claim that the issue is the Southern League’s problem and insist that the Super Final goes ahead on its original date, potentially creating a stand-off between the two leagues and their respective clubs.


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