By Steven Griffiths
Sports fans across Britain are braced for another battering from the stormy weather that has already led to the postponement of two Premier League matches this week.
Manchester City and Everton had to take the unusual step of calling off their fixtures on Wednesday due to safety concerns as hurricane-force winds tore through Britain, leaving one person dead.
Another Atlantic storm is heading for a country already struggling to deal with the wettest winter for 250 years, meaning the damage to the sporting schedule is unlikely to be over yet.
The Meteorological Office said there would be a “multi-pronged attack” of wind, rain and snow striking Britain on Friday (14/02/2014).
The heavy rain could lead to more flooding as downpours of up to 40 millimetres (1.6 inches) could fall in just six hours.
Already the weather has caused unprecedented sporting chaos, with City’s challenge for the Premier League title put on hold just over an hour before kick-off against Sunderland due to the horrendous conditions at Eastlands on Wednesday.
And across the north-west in Liverpool, at Goodison Park, Everton and Crystal Palace fans learnt their match was off only 35 minutes before the scheduled kick-off.
The Merseyside club cited “building damage” caused by winds lashing the stadium as the deciding factor, making it an especially frustrating evening for life-long Everton fan Ric Wee of Malaysia, who had flown 7,000 miles from Kuala Lumpur to see his team in action for the first time.
Sheffield United, who play in the third tier of English football, saw their home match against Brentford called off earlier in the day due to heavy rain.
Even the Premier League matches that did go ahead on Wednesday caused major problems for supporters of north-west based Liverpool and Manchester United had to battle difficult conditions on the road and numerous train cancellations to get to and from London.
While the cash-rich clubs of England’s football elite can cope with having the occasion fixture postponed, the effect of the severe weather has been felt more acutely further down the leagues.
Minor league teams from London, the south east and East Anglia have suffered with waterlogged pitches since mid-December and more than 500 matches have been postponed over the last few months, leaving a major fixture pile-up and significant loss of revenue for clubs already mostly run on a shoe-string budget.
Rugby Union has also been impacted at the grassroots level, a prime example being Windsor’s first team, who have managed to complete only one fixture at their Home Park ground so far this year.
Windsor, in the Thames Valley, has been one of the areas worst affected by flooding caused by weeks of torrential rain and Home Park remains waterlogged.
The extreme conditions did provide a bonus for Great Britain’s Olympic rower Adam Freeman-Pask, though, as he has been able to use the flooded pitch as an additional practice venue.
Horse racing has been affected, particularly in the west of the country, with Worcester racecourse unlikely to see action for some while after the nearby River Severn burst its banks and completely submerged the course.
But, despite the horrendous conditions, the sport has actually fared slightly better this year than 12 months ago.
There have been 29 meetings abandoned in 2014, down from 41 over the same period last year when cold weather wreaked havoc with the racing programme. – Sapa-AFP