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Sunday 30th July 2017 ko 14.00

Peterborough & District League Premier Division

LEVERINGTON SPORTS 2 (Alexander 53 Raychev 90)

PETERBOROUGH I.C.A. SPORTS 0

Att 304

Entry £4

Programme £1

When you organise one of these events clubs tend to take one of two approaches. Some, like Steve Weeks’ Hanney United phone you up every day for advice so you know everything that’s likely to be waiting for you when you arrive. Others prefer to do their preparation quietly, and leave that element of surprise. Leverington definitely fitted into the latter category.

My bugbear in this hop was that far too many clubs did barbecues, they are perfectly acceptable once in a while, but who wants to see all 8 clubs do them? A month before the event we knew that all 8 clubs planned on doing a barbecue so Chris Berezai sent out an email asking clubs to think again, got a few emails back, but the one from Leverington suggested they were sticking with the burgers.

So you can imagine my delight when I saw the club was doing jacket potatoes with chilli and cakes too! The impact was massive, the volunteers struggled to keep up with demand and as organiser that’s exactly what you want to see. The extra selling time caused by the unfortunate abandonment at Long Sutton Athletic was a real silver lining for Leverington. I’d also remark that that demand would have been replicated at the previous clubs on this year’s hop if only they’d had the same imagination.

In fact the only thing the club missed out was the line-ups board. Now I suspect GroundhopUK’s regulars know our methods, I dashed over to find some paper to do the job myself, only to find some hoppers had commandeered the manager’s tactics board, and a club official was at work with a marker pen! I headed back for another slice of cake, gloriously redundant.

In fact the only issue was the size of the crowd, and where to put them all! The club had roped off one side but that rapidly filled up and by the time the game started the pitch ends had filled up and people had began to make use of the out-of-bounds far side. The reason for the restriction was two-fold, firstly that the area behind the fence was outside of the sportsfield and is farmland and secondly that the fence was in part being held up by wires attached to the trees- an obvious hazard.

I could understand people’s discomfiture over the referee stopping the game twice to move people stood there. The fact was that you could stand there if you took reasonable care, but in this day-and-age, personal responsibility does tend to be ignored in favour of a risk-avoidance strategy. It did tell me that when crowds this large are expected, clubs need to plan the viewing areas more thoroughly. As ever, the compromise also involves those planning on attending needing to buy the advance ticket. How else do we know how many to expect? Planning is everything!

The visitors were intriguing and for the record have no connection to the Peterborough Sports we visited on the very first of these hops. The ICA stands for Italian Community Association so I was a little surprised that the were no Italian names on their teamsheet. In truth they could have done with a Baggio or even a Balotelli as in a close game Leverington were just about the better team and deserved their win.

This was the game I probably learned the most from on this hop. That’s no hint of a criticism of Leverington, they hosted well, and their catering was exceptional. Having a hop with leagues at different levels has been a real eye-opener and has provided an excellent blueprint for other hops going forward. The hybrid hop does provide challenges, mainly around crowd control, but let’s face it, that’s a lovely problem to have!

It left us with just one game left on the hop, and one that for unusual reasons I’d been looking forward to for quite some time.

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