Furious Broadbridge Heath manager Steve Painter has accused the Sussex County League of “pulling the rug” under their chances of winning a first ever senior cup.
The date for their SCFA RUR Charity Cup final has been moved from April 23 to May 7 to accommodate Division One opponents East Preston’s hectic fixture list.
The new date comes ten days after Heath’s last league fixture meaning a number of players will be away on holiday as they search for a first cup success for nearly 30 years.
Both the League and the Sussex County FA, which runs the competition, have defended their decision as necessary to ensure County League fixtures are completed on time.
“I’m fuming,” Heath boss Painter said. “We’ve had away fixtures all the way through this cup run, we’ve been to Bexhill, Eastbourne Utd, and in another cup we’ve played Hailsham away, all on Tuesday nights
“For our lads to get to the final of the RUR is a massive thing for us as a football club, it’s the first senior cup final in Broadbridge Heath’s history, and the league have basically pulled the rug from under our feet. We can’t change it, that’s the league’s rules, but I’ve got players going on holiday because our season finishes ten days before, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
“As if we weren’t up against it enough, playing a good County One side, I’m now going to go with half a team.”
Painter says both club captain Ben Arthur and last season’s player of the year Ben Godfrey will miss out amongst others.
Title-chasing East Preston still have 15 County One games remaining as well as a Sussex Senior Cup semi-final against Brighton to play. With all league games having to be completed by May 6 under FA rules, acting SCFL chairman Steve Nealgrove said there was no choice to change the date.
“The RUR is not our competition, it’s the Sussex FA’s, but it doesn’t take precedent over league games,” he said. “We have been told by the FA we need to finish all league games by May 6 and East Preston are playing three games a week and unfortunately do not have any spare dates between now and the end of the season to play it. If Broadbridge Heath wanted to pick up the phone to me I’d be happy to explain it to them,” he added.
A statement from the SCFA reiterated Nealgrove’s comments, adding: “We sympathise with Broadbridge however the recent bad weather has caused a large backlog of fixtures across Sussex.”