Bernie does battle with big backlog
Milton Lindsay It might be below zero outside but long-serving Norwich Sunday League secretary Bernie Hardiman is doing his utmost to keep his cool as a fixture backlog crisis deepens.
It might be below zero outside but long-serving Norwich Sunday League secretary Bernie Hardiman is doing his utmost to keep his cool as a fixture backlog crisis deepens.
While Phil “The Power” Taylor was banging in the three-dart maximums in Sunday evening's PDC world final at the Alexandra Palace, Bernie also notched up a 180 of his own after totting up the number of postponed games on his books.
But despite the backlog, which promises to get worse before it gets better, he was determined to look on the bright side.
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“We have had hard pitches before, we have had bad winters before, but you just struggle on. There is not too much I have not seen before. When I sit down to do the fixtures for next season it will be 40 years in the job. I have done it for so many years now. You have just got to be patient and look for the club secretaries to be helpful to you.”
Scrapping promotion and relegation is one option that remains open - but the emergency measure has only been employed once before in the league's 51-year history.
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“In the 1976-77 season when the pitches were really hard at the start of year and no games were played before October there were so many unplayed games that we had to do away with promotion and relegation and ended up awarding the trophies based on average points per game.
“It could happen again but that would be the last resort. I have to think each week that the league programme will go ahead the next week.”
The vast army of Norwich Sunday League footballers last saw action on December 13 before the Christmas break and the deep freeze came into play.
A drought, which led to matches on rock-hard council pitches being called off, had already wiped out two weekends in September.
A complex job at the best of times is becoming even more intricate for Bernie, whose legendary match-juggling skills are set to face one of the biggest tests.
“I've got 180 unplayed league fixtures, half a league cup and the county cups to factor in. Put those three together and you think 'you have got a bit of a headache Bernie,” laughed the 71-year-old veteran, who received a national FA Award to mark his services to football as a player, referee and administrator this season.
He added: “I just hope the county cup games get played this weekend, but if I am honest I am not too hopeful.”