News and Views from the Football League – Weather puts games on hold

To say that the recent spell of frosty weather our country has been experiencing has had an affect on the sporting calendar really does not even come close to summarising the situation.

The entire United Kingdom has been blighted by seemingly never ending bouts of snowfall and plummeting temperatures. To put it simply, of the scheduled 36 fixtures in the Football League this weekend, only seven were fulfilled. Five fixtures from the Championship went ahead, only two in League One whilst none of the matches in League Two survived the near Arctic conditions. The postponement of a fixture is a decision which cannot be taken lightly. First and foremost, the safety of all those involved must be considered. Many complain that professional players are too soft and that they are paid too highly for what they do, but playing on a frozen pitch can be dangerous. The risk of injury is much higher. There is also the need to consider the safety of the fans. The icy conditions on the roads make travelling to matches that little bit harder. It’s also worth noting that slippery surfaces don’t finish at the turnstiles. The terraces and stands will be icy too and a club will need to ensure that supporter safety can be guaranteed.

So as we can see, postponements are an unfortunate necessity. Unfortunate is the key word here, as a postponement can be very costly for a club. Match-day revenue is vital for the income of all football clubs. The sale of tickets, food, drinks, programmes and corporate hospitality. When it is tallied up, it is a massive source of income for a business which is always seeking more money just to stay afloat. Of course a postponement is not a complete cancellation. Any fixture that is called off will ultimately be replayed but a club cannot expect to receive the same amount of money that they would have welcomed had the fixture gone ahead as originally scheduled. Saturday afternoon fixtures cannot be rearranged for another Saturday as these are already booked up during the season. This means that fixtures are played on a mid-week evening. These fixtures never attract the same crowds that Saturday ones do. Not all fans can make it to a match after work (be they a home or away supporter) and the vast majority simply cannot afford to take a day off for just one fixture. Inevitably, this leads to a drop in attendance figures which in turn results in less money coming in to a football club.

The odd postponement can be dealt with by a club. Of course it is not the ideal, but clubs can work around this. However, when a team has not played for nearly a month due to the weather, problems cannot be far away. Rotherham United last kicked a ball in their 4-2 victory away to Bradford on 12th December. Since then, two home and two away fixtures have fallen victim to the elements. This will not only have seen a loss of income to a club which has certainly had it’s fair share of financial difficulties in recent years, it also means that the Millers will face a fixture pile-up later on in the season, something a team challenging for promotion would be particularly keen to avoid.

So what of the action that did go-ahead. As already mentioned, only seven fixtures in the Football League did survive the weather, perhaps the two most interesting results came at Elland Road and The Hawthorns. West Brom succumbed to a 3-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest in a battle at the top end of the Championship. In a previous article, Forest’s rise up the table was alluded to, and that run of good form has continued to this day. Billy Davies’ men are currently enjoying an 18 match unbeaten run and this latest result has seen them leap-frog the Baggies into the automatic promotion places. There is of course a long way to go in the season yet, but Forest are playing so well at the moment and this is a result which clearly shows they mean business.

In League One, Leeds were somewhat surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw with relegation threatened Wycombe on Saturday. Many will suggest some form of FA Cup hangover for Simon Grayson’s men and judging by their performance on Saturday, they may not be far off the mark. However, enormous credit must go to the Chairboys who outplayed their hosts for large portions of the contest. Surely this will just be a minor blip in Leeds’ march towards promotion, but for Wycombe another glimmer of hope that they can beat the drop. Wanderers manager Gary Waddock criticised the authorities for not issuing a complete postponement of the entire fixture list for the weekend. However, he will no doubt feel delighted to have come away from Elland Road with an invaluable point for his side in their battle against the drop.

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