We have released a statement following the postponement of this evening’s rearranged Vanarama National League trip to Dover Athletic.
It is hugely disappointing and frustrating to once again be addressing issues regarding a postponed trip to Dover, not least due to the inconvenience and cost to supporters – many of whom had set off on the understanding that the Crabble Athletic Ground pitch was ‘perfectly playable’.
On Monday, Dover’s club secretary contacted our chief executive Jason Turner to advise that their view was that the pitch was in satisfactory condition but, due to the events leading to the late postponement of the initial fixture on 8 January, they had arranged for a referee from the Kent FA to conduct a provisional pitch inspection at 11am today (Tuesday). We were told that the match referee was unavailable at this time, but that his FA colleague would liaise with him immediately thereafter. We therefore communicated to our supporters that, while Dover had expressed no immediate concerns, plans were in place to reassess the situation if necessary and that updates would follow in due course.
It therefore came as a surprise to Turner when, at 11.10am today – 10 minutes after the provisional inspection had been scheduled to start – he received a call from the match referee to say the aforementioned official was no longer available and that Dover believed their surface to be playable having carried out groundworks on Friday. They had advised him the earliest they could schedule another provisional inspection would be for 12.20pm and, based on this information, the match referee informed us that he was instead going to endeavour to inspect the pitch himself at 4pm.
Turner informed him that he wasn’t comfortable with our supporters departing Nottingham without a qualified external individual providing their assessment of the pitch, insisting that due to past experience, the weather forecast, the distance and significant cost to fans, it was imperative that the pitch was assessed in the early afternoon. The National League were in agreement and made arrangements for an official of the required level to conduct a pitch inspection shortly after 12.30pm.
Having received no communication from Dover regarding the outcome of said inspection, Turner called their club secretary at 1pm and was categorically assured that the pitch had been deemed perfectly playable and that the appointed official had no concerns about the match going ahead. Turner informed Dover that this information would be communicated immediately via our digital channels to help supporters make what we believed would have been an informed decision as to whether to travel, with the assurance that we would maintain dialogue with all parties in the event of a change in circumstances.
The next communication received by Turner came from the match referee at 2.10pm, informing him that based on the pitch inspection report and weather forecast, he had decided to postpone the match. It is clear, therefore, that Dover’s communication to us following the inspection was either misjudged or misleading.
Following the announcement of the postponement, Dover published an interview with their chairman Jim Parmenter in which he inferred that the postponement can only have come as a result of ‘undue pressure from Notts County’. While we firmly stand by our decision to ask questions of Dover regarding the condition of their pitch and of the National League to arrange an earlier inspection, this was simply to ensure that our supporters were provided with the best possible information before deciding whether or not to travel. We vehemently reject Parmenter’s inference that we were seeking for the match to be postponed. Not only have we once again incurred considerable team travel and hotel costs, but this week’s training schedule has now been severely affected. We have already experienced severe disruption to our season for various reasons and were desperate to play this evening’s match and continue the momentum we have built in our back-to-back wins over Barnet and Halifax.
We will continue our dialogue with the National League as part of our efforts to promote the importance of clear, open and accurate communication between clubs for the benefit of supporters.