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Ref bottled it, says Glentoran chairman Ralph

By Chris Holt

Glentoran chairman Aubry Ralph has asked for common sense to prevail when making decisions to call-off crucial games here.

The Glens were hit in the pocket yet again on Saturday when the first Big Two league showdown of the season fell foul of the weather, and Ralph felt that referee Mark Courtney made the wrong decision in deeming the pitch unplayable.

But what annoyed the chairman more was the fact that, what he described as the ‘health and safety card’ was used, something Ralph feels is trotted out all too often in local football when crunch calls have to be made.

“I noticed Mark Courtney's body language when he arrived, he walked onto the pitch as if he was walking through a swamp and I felt he had already decided,” he said.

“He made several statements in terms of the ball wasn't rolling. Our manager and our assistant ran down both wings with the ball and Mark said well that's alright but the water keeps coming up, but I told him we had two pumps on the pitch and that would fix that.

“The groundsman tells me it's going to be okay and then he (Courtney) played the inevitable health and safety card and that's the get out of jail free card for these guys, all the time.

“He said, ‘how do you think I'll feel if a player breaks his leg’. I said, ‘well obviously safety is paramount but we've played in worse than this’.”

A major factor it seems in the decision to call the game off was that last month games went ahead when they probably shouldn’t have done, a week after the referee’s strike.

Ralph though feels the circumstances were different.

“We can't predict the weather but we started getting bogged down in comparisons with the Glenavon game, that's chalk and cheese. There was a deluge of water there that day - the Westlink was flooded. Was the Westlink flooded this time? No,” he added

“These guys didn't want the match to go ahead for whatever reason and if it's health and safety then I will certainly be bringing this up at the next Premier League meeting because I really have had enough.

“It's such an amateurish way of doing business.

“We have printed programmes, we've had to pay for security. I asked Mark, 'what about the people we have had to pay to come in'. He said, ‘do you not think I am aware of that'. I said, 'all I am asking for is a little bit of common sense’.”

“He talked to the three officials that were allocated to him. He talked to Michael Ross, who I assume was the assessor.

“Government by committee doesn't work. You have to have the guts to make the decision and I don't believe he did. I think he took the easy way out — he played the health and safety card. I don't want to see a player injured, that goes without saying, but that pitch out there was playable.”

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