Sunday 2nd August 2015 ko 17.00
Peterborough & District League Division One
KINGS CLIFFE UNITED 0
STAMFORD LIONS 1 (Kelly 84)
So all too soon we reached the final game of Rutland Weekend Groundhopping, and a trip to “Kings Cliffe Active” a name that seemed to me to wholly give the wrong impression of what the ground would be like. Was I the only one who thought it would be at the back of leisure centre? Beds Hop organiser Craig Dabbs strolled over to the coach with a grin on his face, and laughed, “You’re going to love this!”
I saw why in seconds, the pitch was railed off and there was a clubhouse with an overhang offering no little cover. To add to the excellent facilities there was a hog roast, and a beer tent selling local ales. Once again Chris Berezai and I were reduced to watching the game and counting the crowd. All the planning and preparation had once again paid off.
I remember my first game as one half of GroundhopUK, a Friday night South Wales Amateur League game at Ynysddu Crusaders. Now as I distributed programme packs back then if you’d have told me that we’d have a parachute display at one of our events I’d have laughed the idea away. And even now, with the benefit of hindsight I still can’t believe that at “Step 8” would be able to get UK Parachuting to deliver the match ball in unique fashion. The players looked on agog, and those of us spectating will never forget it.
It all reminded me of that adage I discussed in the Stamford Belvedere article. For a hop game to be successful you need a minimum of one of a good ground, good staging or a good game to happen. Here the ground was good, the game wasn’t exceptional, but the staging was first class. So let’s imagine what one league seems hell-bent on doing this season, and taking away the organisation.
Firstly to dump any number of people on an unprepared club is unfair on both club and spectators, but more than that you rely on the ground being good, as you’ve given up on the staging, and no one can predict how good the game will be! Of course in the end failing to stage the event properly means fewer and fewer people will turn up to watch, so Chris Berezai, I and others have long since opted to do the job well and create a virtuous circle instead. And one look at the attendances on this hop rather proves the point.
Whilst Stamford Lions in their new guise, they were Ryhall United previously, won a poor game with a late goal from Sean Kelly, few will remember this evening for that! The final whistle sounded and after thanking the club’s officials I slowly wended my way back to the coach pondering what the weekend had brought us all.
Like last year’s event there hadn’t been a single poor staging, and that is a massive complement to all the host clubs, as I normally reckon to have to work with one “Problem Child” club on every hop. Undoubtedly the personality of the hop was Oakham United manager Wayne Oldaker whose commitment to the hop was such that he attended every game except for Stamford Belvedere (it was the game before his team’s after all!) and once again Wayne, thanks for the Oakham shirt! Thanks also to Mark Edmonds of the Western League for coming along and seeing how it all works!
Thanks should go to both leagues’ committees, both host and visiting clubs, and the small armies of volunteers at each ground-without exception you were all fantastic. Thanks too to Paul our coach driver who saw more football in a weekend than he’d seem in the rest of his life! Finally thanks to everyone who attended the games, the feedback Chris and I have had suggests a good time was had by all, which is the point of the exercise!
So what’s next for GroundhopUK. Our next event is the biggest event we run, the Welsh Hop from 28th to 31st August taking in 11 games in North Wales and Anglesey.
Then on September 18th and 19th is my baby, GroundhopUK’s 5th annual foray into the North Berkshire League, the competition that we joke is neither in the North, nor in Berkshire! This year will feature a double-decker bus bar, and possibly even a Formula One car!
Then its the Western League’s turn with a 7 games spread over October 16th and 17th. Keep an eye on http://www.granddaysoutnetwork.co.uk/footballweekends.html for further information, and see you there!