Big freeze hits EPL programme

A man walks along an ungritted footpath in Hale, Manchester on January 7, 2010. (AFP photo)

LONDON, Jan 8, 2010 (AFP) - Five of this weekend's English Premier League fixtures have been postponed because of concerns for the safety of spectators making their way to grounds in freezing conditions.

Saturday's Fulham v Portsmouth, Sunderland v Bolton and Burnley v Stoke matches were all called off on Friday, as was Sunday's Liverpool v Tottenham match at Anfield and the game between Hull and leaders Chelsea after heavy snowfall in Hull.

As a result of Chelsea's match being postponed second-placed Manchester United can now go top if they win at in-form Birmingham.

With much of Britain blanketed in thick snow, almost half this weekend's fixtures in England's lower divisions have been called off and only a handful of matches have survived in Scotland.

Although all Premier League clubs are required to have under-soil heating, which means the playing surfaces would be in good condition, iced-up streets surrounding the grounds mean there is a safety risk for supporters and clubs generally follow advice from local police in making a decision.

Clubs are also wary of delaying a decision to call off a match until the last possible minute for fear some supporters may have already embarked on long journeys, as happened to Bolton fans who had travelled to London for a midweek match at Arsenal, only for the game to be postponed in late afternoon.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger however feels that matches are being called off too easily.

"Personally I know only the inside of the stadiums - I don't know the surroundings well enough, but I must say it is the price we pay for living in a society where everybody wants 100 percent security," Wenger said Friday.

"Nobody accepts any risk any more and everybody is always guided by fear.

"If one of 60,000 people has an accident, you feel very guilty and 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."

Source: AFP

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