In the original version of this article I wrote that Basildon, having called off their game again Holt, had arranged another game away at Tabard. This was not true and I apologise unreservedly to Basildon RFC and its members for my mistake. The amended version is below.
On Saturday I went to Holt RFC where I was to present a pair of plaques at the pre-match lunch. On the Friday I received an email saying that Holt’s opponents, Basildon RFC, had called off citing a lack of players. However, the lunch was still on and despite the fact that I wouldn’t see a game of rugby I decided that I should still attend.
Before I left I did a bit of research as I was pretty sure that this wasn’t the first time this season that an Essex club had called of against an Eastern Counties club this season. Sure enough, Upminster had cancelled their game at Lowestoft & Yarmouth in September, Campion called off against Holt on 5 December and the following week May & Baker failed to make the journey to Lowestoft. I later found out that Campion called of against Cantabs this weekend as well.
We all know that clubs have difficulties from time to time for various reasons. The day Upminster called off their game was the date of the England v Wales game in the Rugby World Cup and it may have been that may of their players had tickets. Campion and Basildon are propping up London 2 North East and are certainties for relegation so motivation is low, but at this level you would expect the players to understand that the higher you go up the leagues to further you are likely to travel. It is not as if they have very long journeys every week when in their league half of the twelve teams are in Essex and they only have to make the 135 mile trip to Holt once, and the journeys to Norwich and Diss are less than two hours in a coach.
Clearly there was a lot of anger at Holt about the Basildon call-off. The club is in the middle of a major overhaul of their facilities, the social area where we had lunch now one of the best available in Eastern Counties, and match-day income is very important as it is to every club.
In the absence of a game I agreed to have a short Q&A session with the 70 or so club members that decided to support the club at the lunch and not surprisingly the subject of sanctions against Basildon came up. The team is already doomed to relegation so a deduction of league points this season will make no difference to them, but it is likely that the deduction will take effect next season so Basildon will start the 2016/17 league campaign on –5 points. There is no mechanism for extracting some sort of compensation payment from a club that calls off although it is always worth sending an invoice for expenses incurred, e.g. food, agreed staff hours, pitch preparation,etc.
Any decision to apply further sanctions will be up to the London Organising committee and it is possible that regulations will not allow them to, but clubs in Eastern Counties have had to deal with financial losses, players have gone without games and supporters (including me) have had to do without their weekly rugby fix. There are a lot of unhappy people in North Norfolk.