CORRESPONDENCE WITH FL OVER OXFORD GAME
Below is some correspondence with the Football League over the Oxford abandonment. By Truth and Justice, regular poster on the Stagsnet messageboard :
From Truth and Justice
Sent: 21 March 2004 13:26
Subject: (no subject)
I write to complain at the referees decision to abandon the league match between Mansfield and Oxford yesterday.
He abandoned the game for "football reasons" - there can be no means by which the referee can make a decision about the quality or standard of the game that he officiates as he is there to ensure that the rules are abided by not to comment or react to the quality of the play.
Had he abandoned the game for safety reasons this would have been understood but he did not.
I request an enquiry and additionally would suggest that this referee not officate the "replay" as he will be under more pressure than normal for what will be an important game.
By the way I have attended many games that the referee could have stopped due to the quality of the play but he has been happy to continue.
Will the referee be paid for Saturday and the "replay" as the fans face the prospect of having to pay twice thanks to his decision.
I await your reply.
“Truth and Justice”
REPLY FROM FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Dear “Truth and Justice”
We are in receipt of your communication.
The referee has advised that during the half-time interval of the game, with the scoreline at 0-0, he took the decision, following lengthy consideration, to abandon the match due to extremely strong wind conditions which had continued and gradually worsened during the first half. Prior to the game, the gusty wind, which was blowing end to end, had been of concern and several issues had been addresed to ensure that the stadium was safe.
As the conditions worsened midway through the first half, folloiwng the award of a freekick to Mansfield Town deep in their own half, the Mansfield Town goalkeeper attempted to place the ball in order to take the kick. However, each time he put the ball down and backed away, the ball rolled in the strong wind. This happened several times. The goalkeeper was reluctant to arrange for a colleague to hold the ball as this would place the opposing forwards onside deep into the Mansfield Town half. The whole affair took the best part of 2 minutes and he therefore spoke with both captains and both managers to seek their views. The game had already threatened to become farcical with the ball spending long periods out of play due to the difficulty players were experiencing in controlling and passing the ball and judging the flight of it. Several players from both sides had made representations to him to call proceedings to a halt.
He decided to allow play to continue in the hope that the wind would abate but it continued to blow strongly with players from both sides continuing to complain.
A minute before half-time, he awarded a free kick to Oxford United at the edge of the Masnfield Town penalty area and the situation arose again with the ball moving every time it was placed. Again, this took an excessive amount of time and eventually Oxford United had to take the kick hastily in order to play the ball before it moved.
The game had deteriorated into farce. Therefore, at half time, he made the Safety Officer aware of his intention to abandon the game and asked that a tannoy announcement be made once he had informed both managers who were requested to attend at the referee's dressing. He informed both Keith Curle (Mansfield Town) and David Oldfield (Oxford United) of his decision. This was all done prior to the scheduled end of half time.
Afterwards, he was informed that the Mansfield Town players still took to the field of play and awaited the arrival of Oxford United and after a few minutes, they were joined by their manager before they left the field of play. A tannoy announcement was then made.
The referee's reasons for abandoning the game were due to the game having become farcical, the possibioity of a fluke situation determining the result of the game and the lack of a spectacle for the paying spectations who had attended to watch a game of football and were instead watching a sequence of mistakes in what had beome impossible conditions.
I assure you that such decisions are not taken lightly, however, matches played in England are of course subject to the vagaries of the weather and it is difficult to legislate for every event - to some extent we are in a no-win situation.
Thank you for contacting The Football League.
The Football League Limited
The Football League Ltd., Edward VII Quay, Navigation Way, Preston PR2 2YF.
Telephone: 0870 442 0 1888. Fax: 0870 442 1188. Registered office no: 80612
London office: 11 Connaught Place, London W2 2ET. Fax: 0870 442 8188
REPLY AS FOLLOWS :
From Truth and Justice
FAO Patricia Brown
Thanks for your reply which corresponds with the information given after the game.
The issues here are as follows:
1) How can the referee judge what is an acceptable level of play for the paying fans - indeed subsequent interviews with the fans suggests that they would have preferred to have seen the game concluded? From a Mansfield perspective we actually played better football in that first half than we had in the previous 3 months!! The 2 situations which you referred to did not cause the referee to abandon the game at the time, they did cause a delay but against the rules no additional time was allowed in the first half for those incidents. Had the game been abandoned at that time people could perhaps have accepted the view but to allow the full half to be played causes more difficulty than it solves.
2) The referee did not come back out onto the pitch to see what conditions prevailed after the half time break. Indeed it is widely believed by the fans that the wind had subsided somewhat during the half time interval. Other games up and down the country were completed in the same conditions without complaint!!
3) What is clear is that conditions were no worse after half time than they were at kick off when the referee decided the game was playable, therefore he should have continued to completion.
4) What effect do you think this will have on the paying fans?? Those who do not have season tickets got no refund and will have to pay again (albeit half price) to see the replayed game. The referee did not appear to take this into account at all in his decision. It is expected that the replayed game - which is on a tuesday evening - will be played in front of a small crowd!
If I was cynical I could suggest several games over the last few seasons which were farcical in perfect conditions but the referee did not decide that this was not acceptable to the paying spectators.
Many believe this is another example of the lack of caring and understanding applied by the Football League and its match officials. Your further comments would be appreciated.
“Truth and Justice”
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