LONDON, United Kingdom, Mar 2 – A European-wide deep freeze that shows no sign of stopping anytime soon led Friday to the postponement of several British sports fixtures this weekend.
And while no games in English football’s elite Premier League have yet been called off (pitches at most top-flight clubs have undersoil heating to guard against the chill) concerns have been expressed for the safety of travelling fans batting against dangerous conditions caused by a severe Siberian weather system — the so-called ‘Beast from the East’.
West Ham are flying to Wales for their Premier League match away to Swansea but manager David Moyes was worried about how the London club’s supporters would manage on icy roads.
“The Met office are saying people should not travel on the roads, especially around Cardiff and the M4, so that is a concern at the moment,” Moyes said.
“I’m guessing that’s no different for football clubs or supporters. If they are saying don’t travel I think the Premier League would have to consider that.”
West Bromwich Albion will hope the train will allow them to take the strain when they travel south to Watford for a Premier Leaguer fixture.
“We are still going to Watford on the train,” said Albion manager Alan Pardew. “It’s not an easy weekend for football. Hopefully we can get down there, give a good performance and warm our fans up.”
It was fears over the well-being of spectators that led second-tier Ipswich to announce Friday that Saturday’s English Championship match against Hull at Portman Road had been postponed.
“The pitch is protected and likely to be playable but the areas inside and outside the stadium are hazardous and more bad weather is forecast later today, with freezing temperatures to continue into the weekend,” said an Ipswich statement.
Other Championship postponements include Barnsley’s match against Norwich and Brentford’s fixture with Cardiff and the game between Sheffield United and Burton.
Some 17 fixtures across English football’s third and fourth tiers have also fallen victim to the weather.
– ‘Risking life and limb’ –
Scottish football giants Celtic have insisted the areas immediately outside their Parkhead ground in Glasgow are all in good condition ahead of Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final at home to Morton.
But Morton chief executive Warren Hawke told his club’s website: “We will have supporters risking life and limb to travel to a football match while the Met Office is issuing warnings to avoid non-essential travel. Ultimately, it isn’t about the area around Celtic Park.
“Supporter safety has to be key and I don’t think anyone can guarantee that at this moment in time and I fear for a lot of Morton supporters trying to get to this game tomorrow (Saturday).”
In rugby union, the English Premiership match between Harlequins, based in the London suburb of Twickenham, and Bath scheduled to be played Friday has been put back until Sunday.
“Following South Western Railway’s decision to close their service by 8pm (2000 GMT) and their advice not to travel, along with the worsening weather conditions in the Twickenham area the decision has been made to postpone,” said a Premiership spokesman.
Three of Friday’s fixtures in the Super League rugby league tournament have been postponed and even an indoor sport such as darts is not completely immune from the weather’s icy grip.
The UK Open tournament at Butlin’s Minehead Resort in southwest England going ahead, but being played behind closed doors.
“Due to the unprecedented extreme weather conditions, we have regretfully decided to not allow guests to attend this weekend’s PDC Coral UK Open for safety reasons,” said a Butlin’s statement.