Poland Postponement Rains on England's Parade

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistOctober 16, 2012

KRUSEVAC, SERBIA - OCTOBER 16: Head coach Stuart Pearce (L) of England and assistant Steve Wigley sing the national anthem prior the Under 21 European Championship Play Off second leg match between Serbia U21 and England U21 at Stadium Mladost on October 16, 2012 in Krusevac, Serbia. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

The heavens may have opened in emphatic style, but it was a somewhat more hellish scene in the Warsaw National Stadium on Tuesday when both parties were sent home for the night having never kicked a ball.

As supporters gushed into their seats in the hour leading up to kickoff, the rain continued to gush onto the pitch, and it gradually became clearer that the match was very much in danger.

However, one question worth asking is why the game was ever in danger in the first place. The National Stadium, like so many other modern grounds, has a retractable roof in place, a roof that was closed for the majority of matches that were played there during Euro 2012.

It turns out that in order for a roof to be closed for a game, both teams must agree to the decision, and while England were more than happy for the game to go ahead with a closed lid, the word at the time was that Poland wanted it open.

For whatever reason, a non-unanimous vote meant that the stadium remained exposed to Mother Nature’s relentless forces and was destroyed as a result.

Roy Hodgson took to the field on several occasions, kicking a ball about with the demeanour of an upset child whose peas had touched his potatoes, and understandably so.

After all, this debacle was caused by nothing else but what can only be described as an illogical decision on behalf of a nation’s football authority.

So, the logical decision here would be to close the roof and wait for the pitch to dry up sufficiently so that the match can be played, right?

Wrong, as it swiftly became apparent that the weather had been allowed to go about its business for so long that the wind and rain made it mechanically unlikely that the roof could ever be closed.

When it came to kickoff time, it wasn’t the players taking to the pitch, but merely an official sent out to test the ground’s chances of standing up to a 90-minute match.

With the roof still open and the rain still hammering down, any attempts to test the pitch’s buoyancy went down in flames, and the pass of a ball wouldn’t travel more than three yards in any direction.

Against all the odds, the Italian delegate decided to give the paying customers the chance to see their money’s worth and announced that a third check on the pitch would be made 45 minutes later.

Three quarters of an hour and another Roy Hodgson sulk session later, and the news that everyone had been expecting was made public—a FIFA World Cup qualifier would be postponed due to torrential rain, in a stadium with roof capabilities.

The real issue here is a matter of rule enforcement. Although the match is on Polish soil, should it be FIFA that make the final decision on these matters considering it’s in qualification for one of their tournaments?

Thousands of English fans will have left the Polish capital having not seen even a minute of football, and the matter of where they turn to for a refund will undoubtedly rise in the coming days.

In a electoral travesty such as this, we are shown exactly just how staunch and stubborn football communities can be in changing their ways, confined to rules that would no longer seem to make total sense.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5Live, Graham Taylor said: "This is Monty Python. Both sets of supporters have been treated disgracefully. If I was a fan I'd be booing."

It’s hard to disagree with the former England manager, and yet again, we are fed an example of just how this sport can still fall short of expectations despite having one of the largest followings in the world.