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Page last updated at 19:54 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Premier League 'can deal with big freeze disruption'

The Emirates Stadium
Arsenal's match with Everton was one of a handful of Premier League fixtures to go ahead over the course of the weekend

By Nabil Hassan

The Premier League says it can cope with the disruption and expected fixture congestion caused by the recent snow and freezing temperatures.

Seven games fell victim to the weather over the weekend, creating additional problems for an already packed calendar in a season with a World Cup to come.

But the Premier League says there are contingencies in place.

"We'll work with clubs to reschedule fixtures as soon as practically possible," a spokesman told BBC Sport.

In addition to the postponed Premier League matches, games involving top flight clubs were also called off in the Carling Cup.

Clubs will now liaise on when to play the postponed matches with league games the last in the order of priority after Uefa competitions (Champions League and Europe League), the FA Cup and the Carling Cup.

606: DEBATE

Rescheduling is also complicated by a voluntary agreement with Uefa not to play Premier League matches on the same evenings as Champions League or Europa League clashes.

However a precedent for ignoring the arrangement has been set with Fulham recently playing Basle in the Europa League on the same night as four domestic top-flight fixtures.

And BBC Sport understands that if there was further disruption then the Premier League would consider playing fixtures on the same evenings as European football.

Games could also be played on FA Cup fourth or fifth-round days between sides knocked out of the competition.

Nobody accepts anymore that the slightest insecurity could exist in our society and that is why the games are postponed when there is no real need for it

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger

For example, Manchester United's league game against Hull on 26 January had been postponed as a result of their Carling Cup game with Manchester City being rescheduled for 27 January.

But United's defeat by Leeds and Hull's loss to Wigan in the third round of the FA Cup means they can now meet on 23 January, the weekend set aside for fourth-round FA Cup fixtures.

Premier League officials also foresee spaces in the calendar on 24 March, 14 April and 5 May.

The Premier League ends a week earlier than usual this year in order to assist England's preparations for the World Cup and officials say that this is very much an unmovable deadline; there is no chance of the season being extended beyond the 9 May cut-off point.

The only games involving English club sides after the end of the Premier League season will be the FA Cup on 15 May and, potentially, the Champions League final on 22 May - the first time it has been played on a Saturday.

That has led to suggestions of a fixture pile-up with Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp among those wary of the possible impact of rearranged fixtures.

His side had their game at Liverpool postponed on Sunday and the Spurs boss is worried that Tottenham could be affected by fixture congestion

"They are talking about playing it (the rearranged Liverpool game) in two weeks and suddenly we have got five games in 14 days," said Redknapp.

Northampton Town FC
In all 83 matches were postponed in English football because of the weather

"You never know, it can work in anyone's favour if you catch it right. We have seen it many times when teams end up playing six games in 14 days suddenly and it gets difficult towards the end of the season.

"It makes or breaks their season so we will just have to wait and see."

The Premier League has also defended the number of postponements at the weekend saying it was led by police advice.

In six of the seven cases over the weekend, police advised the Premier League that it was not safe for the matches to go ahead. Only Wigan's game against Aston Villa was called off because of a frozen pitch.

Television pictures showed the areas surrounding Upton Park apparently clear of snow despite West Ham's match with Wolves being called off.

But police advice was that may not be the case for roads around the ground.

Arsenal boss Arsenal Wenger complained about a perceived "risk-averse" culture in modern society, with clubs and police too concerned by the prospect of litigation.

"Nobody accepts anymore that the slightest insecurity could exist in our society and that is why the games are postponed when there is no real need for it," said Wenger.

Clearly the safety of supporters in these circumstances is paramount and the League and clubs have acted quickly to ensure as few unnecessary journeys are undertaken as possible

Premier League spokesman

Premier League rules state that matches cannot be postponed or abandoned except with the approval of the referee or by order of the police or other authority exercising its statutory powers to that effect.

"It is unfortunate that these matches have had to be called off, however the advice from the statutory authorities in light of continuing adverse weather conditions was to postpone," a Premier League spokesman told BBC Sport.

"Clearly the safety of supporters in these circumstances is paramount and the League and clubs have acted quickly to ensure as few unnecessary journeys are undertaken as possible."

With the 'big freeze' set to continue, some clubs have taken to extreme measures with Portsmouth issuing a public plea on their website for fans to help to get Fratton Park ready for Saturday's visit of Birmingham.

In return everyone who turns up to help out on Wednesday will be given two free tickets for the Birmingham game as thanks.

Supporters have been urged to "bring a shovel/spade and even a broom and wheelbarrow if you have them as walkways, stairs and the pitch edge all need clearing".

Former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson on Monday reignited the debate of introducing a winter break in English football in light of the recent weather.

The Premier League refused to comment on the merits of such an idea but the fact that last winter's spell of especially cold weather occurred at the end of January rather than the start of the month highlights the potential problems of a predetermined slot to try to account for bad weather.



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see also
British sport ravaged by weather
09 Jan 10 |  Sport Homepage
Saturday football as it happened
09 Jan 10 |  Football
Guiseley and Dover win in Trophy
13 Jan 10 |  Non League
Arsenal to pay Bolton fans' costs
08 Jan 10 |  Arsenal
Carling Cup semi-final dates set
07 Jan 10 |  League Cup


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