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Football authorities criticised for leaving postponement of fixtures so late despite early warnings

Lewes FC owner's call for a blanket postponement on Saturday, which would have saved considerable expense and risky journeys, went unheeded

A fan arrives in the heavy rain for the Premier League match at Bramall Lane between Sheffield United and AFC Bournemouth, as Storm Ciara hits the UK
A fan arrives at the men's match between Sheffield United and Bournemouth, which did go ahead as Storm Ciara caused the late postponement of WSL and Championship fixtures Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

Football authorities have been criticised after Championship and Women’s Super League fixtures were cancelled only at the 11th hour as a result of Storm Ciara.  

Leading clubs are frustrated that games were not cancelled on Saturday after warnings from police and the Environment Agency that the forecast 80mph winds2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app posed a danger to life.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appOne of Lewes FC's owners, Ash Head, said that he had called for a blanket postponement on Saturday but received no response. Head said the failure to act sooner led teams to travel considerable distances needlessly for matches, and meant that they faced potentially unsafe return journeys on Sunday as the extreme weather conditions took hold.

“I feel in exceptional circumstances, such as this weekend’s clear and early weather warnings, the relevant associations – the WSL and Championship – should help clubs by issuing an advisory,” Head told The Telegraph.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app“If the police are warning people not to travel unless ‘absolutely necessary’, that’s a clear indication that games should be postponed.

“I believe Villa travelled at least part way to Durham and Sheffield were headed to London to play Charlton. Those teams now need to get home in dangerous conditions. A flag from the FA on Saturday morning could have saved a lot of wasted time and potentially unrecoverable costs.”

Goodison Park was supposed to host the Merseyside derby on Sunday in front of an expected crowd of 25,000 Credit: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty images

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appEvery game in the top four divisions was cancelled on Sunday, including Liverpool Women’s visit to Everton – a 2pm kick-off called off at 10.45am – Chelsea’s trip to Manchester United and West Ham v Manchester City, which was called off less than three hours before kick-off. A Chelsea source confirmed that the club had incurred “a huge expense” having travelled to Manchester on Saturday.

Manchester City likewise stayed in the capital overnight.

The FA Women’s National League – the third and fourth tiers of women’s football – was the only league out of the top four divisions to issue advice to its clubs on Saturday, warning teams not to travel to ensure the safety of players, staff, officials and the public.

It is understood that the decision to postpone matches generally lies with clubs, with decisions usually made after consultations with match officials, safety officials and stadium operations teams. Yet a flurry of National League sides - including Doncaster Belles, Burnley, and Bradford City – postponed their matches on Saturday in light of the league’s recommendations, citing safety concerns.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appJane Roberts, a representative of the league’s management committee, said: “The forecast and warnings were out there for all to see and clubs needed some guidance.”   

Chelsea and England goalkeeper Carly Telford tweeted: “Please anyone who has travelled, take care getting home [...] Player and fans safety maybe should have been considered yesterday when the storm was deemed ‘a threat to life’”.

Everton - who had been expecting a crowd of 25,000, including a number of spectators from outside the region - tried to make the decision swiftly in light of road closures, transport shutdowns and the risks posed by the residential areas surrounding Goodison Park.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appIn a statement, Everton said: “The adverse weather conditions including high winds on Merseyside, caused by Storm Ciara, have made travelling to the match and the area around Goodison Park dangerous. The decision to postpone the fixture was made by club officials in conjunction with Merseyside Police, match officials and safety experts on the grounds of the safety of both sets of supporters.”

An FA spokesperson said: “Spectator, player and staff safety is paramount. To ensure ground safety, we have worked with club and referee officials to make localised decisions on matches. With unprecedented numbers of postponements across multiple sports being confirmed today, this would appear to be the approach followed by a number of sports leagues and governing bodies.

“Clubs’ operational and safety teams will have completed ground safety inspections and are advised to follow FA postponement guidance, competition rules and liaise with the match officials, the league, the FA and the visiting club. “The FA is working closely with clubs to rearrange postponed fixtures. Further information regarding rearranged fixtures will be published in due course.”