Premier League to probe postponed matches


The Premier League are to investigate why undersoil heating systems at Bolton and Blackburn failed to cope with the freezing Christmas weather, forcing both clubs to postpone matches.

Blackburn's Barclays Premiership clash with Sunderland on Wednesday night was called off because the Ewood Park pitch was covered in heavy frost and deemed unplayable.

Bolton's game with Middlesbrough, scheduled for the same evening, was also postponed after the Reebok Stadium's undersoil heating broke down, leaving central areas of the pitch “frozen solid”.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out the postponement allowed Sam Allardyce's side extra rest before their New Year's Eve trip to Old Trafford.

Ferguson quipped: “Surely there was one electrician in Bolton who could have fixed the problem.”

In the end it mattered little as United ran out 4-1 winners yesterday, but the Premier League are demanding an explanation from both Bolton and Blackburn.

“We will look into the reasons why at Bolton and Blackburn the undersoil heating did fail,” said Premier League spokesman Dan Johnson.
“It is a specific rule in the Premier League (that clubs must have undersoil heating) in order that we can get fixtures on during inclement weather and we will certainly be asking for an explanation.”
Newcastle's game against Charlton, also scheduled for Wednesday evening, was called off just 25 minutes before kick-off. The pitch passed an inspection but local officials ruled the icy conditions outside St James' Park were too dangerous.

“What is unacceptable is that three games end up being cancelled in a full programme. The Premier League is a prestigious competition and we can't have three games being called off. It is not fair on the fans and it is not fair on the other teams,” said Johnson.

The postponement of Newcastle's game against Charlton raised the question of why the Premier League had not scheduled more local derbies over the festive period.

The fixture matrix was complicated this year by the fact Christmas fell on a Sunday, but also Sven-Goran Eriksson's demand for extra preparation time ahead of the World Cup this summer.

But Johnson admitted it had been a mistake to send Charlton to Newcastle on December 28 and that the Premier League will make sure there are no repeats next season.

“We had to shoe-horn an extra fixture into the packed Christmas period due to a truncated season to facilitate Sven Goran-Eriksson's four-week break to give him sufficient time to prepare for the World Cup. It was something he and the FA were insistent on and it was something that was very difficult for the Premier League to facilitate.

“Next year we will be looking at a different festive period. We won't have to be shoe-horning an extra fixture in, we won't have lost the Saturday before Christmas. It will be a normal set of Christmas fixtures next season.”