By Ewan Roberts
Bemusement and cynicism lashed down as heavily as the rain in Warsaw as England’s tie with Poland was postponed until 4pm on Wednesday. In today’s modern age, how does a stadium with a roof see a match postponed due to a waterlogged pitch?
The conditions were predicted, the situation preventable, yet thousands of fans will miss the opportunity to watch their nation play, or endure great expense in order to witness the rescheduled tie. Hours before kick-off the situation was clear: close the roof or risk postponement of the match.
Yet the officials proceeded to conduct ridiculous, bordering on comical, “scientific” tests to assess the conditions of the waterlogged pitch before, during and after the kick-off time, which essentially consisted of tossing a ball across the pitch and watching it stop dead in a murky puddle of water.
And they continued this experiment at regular intervals, watching more rain lash down and settle on the surface, yet expecting a different result of the “ball test” each time.
There were no efforts to rid the pitch of the excess water, unlike the events that transpired in Donetsk at Euro 2012 in a group match between the Ukraine and France. A similar downpour, a similarly boggy pitch, yet ground staff descended upon the pitch with forks, aerators and all manner of tools and equipment and the game went ahead.
The reason for the lack of activity was attributed, bizarrely, to the presence of a roof on the stadium. The logic hardly makes an ounce of sense, but with a roof in place, precautions and contingency plans simply did not exist for such a situation.
So why wasn’t the roof closed pre-emptively? The Polish FA media officer Agnieszka Olejkowska said: “we knew there would be heavy rain but we could not 100% predict the downpour.” It is scarcely believable. Both sides had to agree to close the roof beforehand, but the home side refused.
It seems the Polish side were rather happy to let the rain descend, though did not anticipate the Biblical downpour that would ensue. Heavy rain would have made for a less slick surface, a slower game.
Just as Jose Mourinho has declined to cut the Bernabeu’s turf and heavily watered the surface prior to visits from Barcelona, Waldemar Fornalik was letting nature even the playing field against England, literally.
|THREE LIONS KEEP FOCUSED|
|8/1||England are 8/1 with bet365 to beat Poland 2-1 on Wednesday|
The logistics for the England squad are pretty straight-forward; another night in their hotel is easy to arrange. But that is not the case for the hordes of fans who have travelled to Poland.
You would expect a full refund for both sets of supporters, but that will do little to appease the thousands of soaking wet, disappointed fans that could miss the rescheduled match.
Some fans may opt to stay in Warsaw, missing their pre-planned flights home and buying a new, later one at great expense, perhaps having to miss an additional day of work, while shelling out for an extra night’s stay in their hotel.
The knock-on effects of the illogical and irresponsible decision not to close the roof are massive, and not just for the fans. The 12 Premier League sides who are represented in the England squad have lost their assets for an additional day.
With a weekend packed full of domestic action, those sides will be denied crucial training pitch time to prepare for their league’s next fixture. They will have a days less rest and recuperation, a day's less time to study tapes of the opposition, a days less time to re-acclimatise themselves with their club-mates.
And all because a single button wasn’t pressed, all because the powers that be farcically opted to leave their roof open amidst a predicted downpour, and now everyone suffers.
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