Premier League: Frozen-pitch postponements could lead to sanctions

• Cancellation at Craven Cottage two hours before kick-off
• Portsmouth said frost too deep for their blow heaters

Fulham and Portsmouth may face sanctions from the Premier League if it is found that they did not take sufficient action to prevent the postponement of their games on Saturday. Freezing conditions led to match ­officials at Craven Cottage and Fratton Park calling off both games in the interests of safety. In total 23 games across the four divisions were postponed, but only Premier League clubs are required to provide adequate pitch protection for temperatures as low as -3C.

A Premier League spokesman said yesterday that no decision would be taken by the board until all the relevant parties had been contacted: "Once the match officials make their reports to ourselves we will also be asking the clubs for their observations and then the board will consider the case." The Premier League would not rule out imposing fines on either Portsmouth or Fulham if it was found they did not take sufficient steps to prevent the cancellation of their matches.

The Premier League is not aware of complaints from either Blackburn Rovers or Manchester City despite Rob Styles' failure to postpone Blackburn's game at Craven Cottage until after his 1.15pm pitch inspection, less than two hours before the scheduled 3pm kick-off. Manchester City heard of their game's postponement before 10am because Mike Dean arrived at Fratton Park particularly early after Portsmouth made the league aware of the conditions well ahead of the game.

"We alerted the Premier League earlier in the week that the pitch was frozen and that we would therefore be taking ­action to get it playable, which we did from Monday or Tuesday," said a Ports­mouth spokesman. "We got the [diesel] ­blowers in on Wednesday. They [the Premier League] also sent someone down to look at the pitch on Friday and they gave it the green light that it would be fine. We think what happened was that the temperatures were so low and it was such a heavy frost that it frosted the covers and the pitch together."

A spokesperson for Fulham denied they had wrongly assessed the weather: "We didn't get caught on the hop – had the weather been as it was forecast and as it was Friday and today [Sunday], the match would have gone ahead. But as it was, we took every precaution necessary."

While Sam Allardyce, the Blackburn manager, agreed with Styles' decision he would have preferred it to have been made earlier: "Obviously personally, and from the players' point of view, we are extremely disappointed. We were on the coach just 15 minutes away when we heard the news that the game had been called off."

The Manchester City manager, Mark Hughes, was similarly disappointed, but agreed Dean had no option. "Representatives of both clubs, ­including myself, went out with the referee on to the pitch at 10am and it was clear that it was in no fit condition for play, and that it would have been dangerous for both sides to play on."

There are no dates yet for the ­rescheduled matches and the Ports­mouth-Manchester City game could be particularly troublesome with the south coast club still to play their FA Cup third‑round tie with Bristol City after its postponement. Manchester City's ­involvement in the Uefa Cup may also limit the options.

Four Championship matches were also postponed, including Nigel Clough's first game in charge of Derby County at Cardiff City. Just three of the 10 matches in League One were played while nine of the 12 scheduled League Two fixtures were called off.


Mikey Stafford

The GuardianTramp

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