Snow, Bitter Cold Lead to English Postponements

By J.J. Zucal
Snow covers the field at Stonebridge Road in Gravesend, where Ebbsfleet United’s match for Saturday against visiting Tamworth was postponed. Photo by Paul Jarvis

Fans of English soccer below the top two flights found it difficult to attend a match because 21 matches were postponed Friday and Saturday as the result of Britain’s first severe cold snap and snow.

According to the Met Office, Britain’s national weather service, up to four inches of snow had been expected in the southeast region of England and as much as 10 inches in Wales and western England between Thursday night and Saturday. That, coupled with temperatures which hovered around the freezing mark for much of the week, had clubs already postponing matches, especially those that involved road clubs traveling long distances, on Friday.

Six matches in League One, nine in League Two and six in the Conference Premier had been postponed as of Friday night because of expected frozen pitches and poor weather. In the Conference, officials with AFC Telford, in the north and Wales-based Newport County issued a call for volunteers to clear pitch covers Saturday morning so the ground can be inspected by match officials. They may have had second thoughts, though: Telford drew 0-0 with Alfreton; Newport lost 2-0 to Barrow. A Friday night match between Braintree and Grimsby, expected to be televised, also was postponed.

In the only three League Two matches played, Wycombe Wonderers and Northampton won their home matches while York City drew. While Northampton’s attendance of 4,090 was slightly below its average, Wycombe and York’s attendance was about 1,000 less than their averages.

Premier League and Championship clubs usually are spared from cold weather as many have underground heating systems. Below those divisions, however, snow and cold temperatures can make fields unsuitable for competition.

Mike Reilly, a former EPL official who serves as general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, explained to the EPL website the importance of ground inspections.

“A referee has to consider whether the playing conditions threaten the well-being of the players and whether they compromise the match as a spectacle for the fans,” said Reilly. He noted that only referees, not the clubs, can postpone matches.

With more snow followed by clear skies expected after the weekend, the two League Cup semifinal second legs may be in danger of being postponed. Temperatures for the matches, set for Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Aston Villa and Swansea, could be below freezing if they are played as scheduled.

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