Wednesday 25th February 2015 ko 19.30
Western League Division One
CHARD TOWN 1 (Chlopecki 38)
ROMAN GLASS ST GEORGE 2 (Hamilton-Dunn 42 88)
When groundhoppers talk over a pint, often its ground quirks that dominate the conversation. If the topic of sloping pitches comes up you soon find out who’s been to Chard or not. Put simply the ground at Zembard Lane is the slope to which all other slopes are compared.
In fact let’s put that slope in perspective. It slopes 12 feet from goal to goal, and in 2010 I visited with my ex-wife on our final holiday together. She was complaining about something as we pulled in at the ground, glanced to her left, and was quiet, stunned at the pitch so I’ll always be grateful to Chard Town.
In fact the slope used to be steeper, there has been landscaping to take earth from the top end to the bottom. When you visit, take a stroll to the bottom of Zembard Lane, and the level of the cricket pitch to the level of the access road at the top end is what it used to be like. That I found hard to imagine!
But let’s take a step back from sloping superlatives, there is a serious side to all of this. FA rules dictate a pitch’s slope should be less than 1:41, and Chard’s is way more than that. It’s prevented them entering the FA Cup, FA Vase, or even gaining promotion. Now the FA are really turning the screws, threatening the club with expulsion from the Western League.
They couldn’t play in the Dorset Premier League, they’re sticklers for the regulations, they turned down Lyme Regis over the width of the pitch at the Davey Fort, so Chard’s slope would disqualify them. They’d probably go into the Somerset County League, but there’s a far bigger picture here.
The Western League are happy to continue to have Chard in their ranks, and all of the other clubs in the league were happy to sign a petition in support of their comrades. On Wednesday the club were confident a solution can be found, whether at Zembard Lane or elsewhere, and it should be pointed out that the club has been actively trying to move.
But why should they? As the secretary put it, you play uphill one half and down the other, and everyone seems happy to play here! Do we really want every single ground to look the same, with the same Meccano stands, and uniformity in everything that could be interesting? If you’re connected with the FA, and perchance are reading this, please look beyond the slope in these photos, and understand that its life’s quirks that make us all what we are, and look favourably at poor old Chard.
The point was demonstrated nicely by the game, two of the goals were scored uphill! I wonder if someone is taking note of where the goals are scored here, it would certainly make for an interesting study!