Thursday, December 29, 2005

Snow Clue

Maybe I was one of the fortunate Charlton fans, my trip to Newcastle being as much about seeing old friends as a football match, but to describe last night as an almighty cock-up on behalf of Newcastle United would be an understatement. Ironically I'm writing this at Newcastle Airport in full view of Peter Varney who is on the same flight home, and his quotes last night summed up the feelings of most fans.

In short, the decision to call off the game was absolutely the correct one, but it could easily have been made at 5pm when the snow was bucketing down amidst rapidly falling temperatures. The roads around the ground were dangerous in the extreme and there wasn't a gritting lorry in sight. As someone based in New York, where winter storms make this one pale into insignficance, the difference in efficiency between the two sets of authorities is frightening. If the council couldn't get its act together, at least the club itself could have gritted the roads in the immediate vicinity and the stands/concourses to give the fixture half a chance of going ahead.

Exactly what the safety officer/police were thinking is beyond me - it was an extremely easy decision to make; by 7pm we simply couldn't believe it hadn't been called off yet. Unfortunately it shows the dangers of putting people in authority who have neither the intelligence nor foresight to make rational decisions.

I suspect no more than 200 or so Charlton fans even made the trip; I certainly didn't see any at all. Even if 500 tickets were sold, surely many sensible fans wouldn't have bothered setting off - it could've taken them hours just to drive through Kent. As has rightly been pointed out, some of the other fixtures yesterday were just as ludicrous - Barnet away at Darlington for example. In five years time, when I expect Premier League games generally to be played in half-full stadiums (many already are), then it will be decisions like these which will be to blame; most fans are not mugs (or total mugs at least). Hopefully more fans like myself will realise attending matches is voluntary not required.

Whilst I'm on the subject, why exactly is there a full set of fixtures on New Years Eve? I can't imagine the Met Police are delighted about having 3,000 Newcastle and Birmingham fans in the city, many of which will drink from lunchtime and hang around the city.

Footnote: New York Addick made a surprise appearance on Sky Sports News, casually walking behind Varney at Heathrow as the great one is delivering an interview. Although none have so far been forthcoming, I expect a series of media agents to be seeking to tie up a deal for future image rights.


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