As the winter months approach in England, some games up and down the country may be affected due to adverse weather conditions. Here, we want to take you through the process that each Club has to go through when assessing the condition of the pitch or areas surrounding the stadium.
Q: What happens when a Club’s playing surface is affected by adverse weather conditions ahead of a game?
In instances where there has been persistent rain, snowfall or low temperatures in the week leading up to a fixture, the home Club will have monitored weather reports and made plans to ensure that a pitch inspection can be made as efficiently as possible.
The home Club is required to make contact with the EFL and the match referee to inform them of the situation. Depending on the location of the match referee, the EFL, in certain circumstances would then arrange for a local referee to make an inspection.
The home Club will also liaise the visiting Club to inform them of the required pitch inspection so they can plan accordingly in regards to team and supporter travel. In some extreme cases, a pitch inspection can be made the day before the fixture.
The appointed match official will then report back to the EFL with his recommendation and a decision will be taken, based on his report.
Q: What happens when the playing surfaced is affected by adverse weather conditions on the day of the game?
Again, the home Club and the match referee are required to assess the latest weather reports and the Referee will make arrangements with both Clubs in regards to the time any inspection would take place.
In most cases inspections will take place as early as is practically possible, however the weather forecast is also taken into consideration, certainly if improvements are expected. In addition, ideally the attendance of the away clubs’ management staff is always recommended so officials may decide to delay an inspection, where practical, until their arrival.
The match referee will always try and give the fixture every chance to go ahead where possible, and in some instances there may be more than one inspection on the day of the game. This is often to allow pitches the chance to drain, and the temperatures to rise, to assist pitch recovery.
The match referee will always base his decision on the condition of the pitch at the time of inspection, but will also factor in any forecast improvements or otherwise and consult both managers/backroom staff of each Club. Ultimately however, the Referee’s decision is final in this scenario.
With robust and effective pitch protection now required at every stadium, pitches often remain playable even during sub-zero temperatures or after heavy snow or rainfall.
Despite this fact, many clubs are faced with the prospect of postponed matches due to spectator safety concerns relating to the condition of the stadium itself and/or its surrounds.
Q: Why are games postponed if the playing surface is playable?
It is the responsibility of each Club to ensure their stadium and car parks are safe to admit spectators on matchdays.
The home Club’s ground safety team will risk-assess the condition of the stadium footprint and the surrounding areas. It may not always be possible to ensure the safety of spectators in the event of extreme low temperatures, snow, ice and treacherous conditions.
On the day of the fixture, the ground safety team would liaise with the region’s SAG (Safety Advisory Group) and talk through their concerns around the safety of supporters.
The SAG would normally consist of the local policing authorities, the club’s ground safety team, local council members who specialise in different aspects of the community, and the ambulance service from that region.
The final decision would be out of the hands of the match referee on the day and would instead be based upon a recommendation from the Club’s Safety Advisory Group to the EFL.
Q: What happens if conditions around the stadium change in the lead up to kick-off?
The home team’s safety team along with the SAG team will continue to monitor conditions in the lead up to kick-off and will keep relevant parties informed regarding the safety of the stadium footprint.
Q: What can the club do to prevent the fixture from being postponed?
It is important that during periods of freezing conditions and heavy snowfall, Clubs make provisions to ensure the stadium, stadium footprint and its surrounds are in an appropriate condition to admit spectators.
This may include additional staff and/or volunteers to help clear snow or grit frozen surfaces. If the home club has any safety concerns ahead of a fixture they should make early contact with the EFL and the visiting team.