CRAIG NELSON: Fans are never first priority when football games are called off
7:30pm Friday 14th February 2014 in Sport
FOLLOWING a football team around the country can be a thankless task – just ask Bury fans.
The Shakers’ last four scheduled away matches have all been postponed due to waterlogged pitches, causing varying degrees of fury and frustration.
Supporters made it to the turnstiles at Accrington Stanley last month, but were kept on the outside looking in before the referee finally called off the game at 2.15pm.
Two matches at Mansfield Town have been aborted in the last month, but in plenty of time, well before travelling fans were due to tackle the Snake Pass.
But the majority of Bury fans were safely tucking into their Devon cream teas last Saturday by the time match referee Dave Phillips pulled the plug on their match at Torquay, just a couple of hours before kick-off.
The elements may have been the biggest culprit, but I feel supporters had every right to moan at the officials after the postponement was delayed, and delayed, and delayed.
It took three pitch inspections – at midday on Friday, at 9am on the Saturday and then three hours later – before the decision everyone expected was finally made.
The reality of the situation is the local referee who inspected the pitch on the Friday would have been mindful of the Football League’s campaign to stop postponements being made prematurely for financial reasons.
Fast forward 24 hours and Phillips would have been equally mindful of the impact another postponement would have on the already busy fixture schedules of both teams.
What is clear is that when these decisions are made, at no point are the fans the top priority.
If they were then the local referee would have taken one look at the pitch on Friday and another at the horrendous weather forecast for the south coast and called it off.
The same applied on the Saturday morning, when the majority of Bury fans set off around 9am and could have easily cancelled their planned journey.
I understand you can’t control the weather and these things happen, but the late postponement of Manchester City’s and Everton’s Premier League matches on Wednesday night was just another example of rich football clubs and TV and radio schedules being put before fans.
If supporters’ safety was paramount, then why didn’t the police, who we are told made the decision, do something up when the Met Office issued its red weather warning, rather than letting visiting fans make the trek from Sunderland and Crystal Palace?
At the point they were turned away, around an hour before kick-off, I am pretty sure the Etihad Stadium and Goodison Park, even in hurricane-force winds, would have been a great deal safer than the M62 or the M6.
But as one tweeter put it to me: Who cares about the fans anyway?