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Marlow's game against Ashford Town postponed after coordinated walkout by the players

Marlow have been forced to apologise to the Southern League after their players failed to show for Saturday’s match against Ashford Town.

Barely a handful of players turned up for the fixture at Oak Tree Road, and, when it became clear that 15 or 16 of the squad had texted manager Mark Bartley to say they were ‘unavailable’, the club was left with no option but to postpone the game.

At 1.45pm only one member of the Marlow playing squad had arrived at the ground. Marlow were given until 3pm to try and resolve the situation before the match was called off.

Bartley and the board were unaware of the players’ coordinated decision to miss the match. A club meeting with players, the club’s board and management team has been hastily organised for this evening (Monday) to try to resolve the situation.

The club have been able to fulfil their recent fixtures, despite strains showing following their decision to cut the playing budget in half shortly after Christmas. However, it seems that this, as well as a lack of clarity from the club over what was being done to rectify the situation, has led to the players jointly taking their drastic step.

Speaking this morning, Bartley said that he was confident the issue with the players could be resolved, and that the club would be able to fulfil tomorrow’s rearranged fixture at Chalfont St Peter. He is also confident the players will make themselves available for Marlow’s remaining matches this season.

It seems likely the club will be fined for the postponement, while the players could also be fined for failing to play the fixture, however, Bartley isn’t sure how the league will enforce this if the players weren’t at the ground. A precedent for this has been set, and on that occasion the match was replayed, rather than points being docked.

“I think clearly, if you get to a situation where the players aren’t there, there’s obviously been some coordination,” said Bartley.

“I’ve since spent some time speaking to all parties, the players, the board, my staff and we’re all having a meeting this evening. In an ideal world we’ll have the meeting today and then go and play our game tomorrow at Chalfont. That’s pretty much what the plan is for today. I think it will be done today because there’s a game tomorrow and we need to play that game.

“There are a couple of things that I think we need to sit down and discuss. I’ve spoken to all the players and I’ve been in constant dialogue with the board. While it’s easy to leverage everything on the players, but quite clearly there is responsibility for (what they did) on everyone. On the players, on me, on the board. We need to get everyone together, thrash it out and then concentrate on tomorrow’s game. It’s not the players that are solely responsible for this. All the key stakeholders will be at this meeting tonight so I think that shows willing on all sides to try and resolve this and make sure we fulfil our fixtures for the rest of the season.”

Bartley added: “The (expenses being cut) has obviously had an impact, but it’s not the sole reason why Saturday unfolded as it did. There’s a little bit more to it than that. There’s a few different angles to it. Some of it is down to a breakdown in communication and that means there’s a responsibility on all parties.”

See this week’s Advertiser for more indepth coverage of the situation. 

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