Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Don't blame it on the Weatherman!

There were farcical scenes last week when England’s World Cup qualifier against Poland was postponed due to torrential rain in Warsaw. Officials ignored the weather forecasts and refused to close the retractable roof on the £400million state-of-the-art National Stadium, which had been upgraded significantly prior to the UEFA European Championships last Summer, which were co-hosted by Poland and the Ukraine.

The deluge of rain that followed left the playing surface under pools of water and ultimately unplayable. However it wasn’t until 45 minutes after the scheduled kick-off time before the players, the fans in the stadium and the millions watching on television at home were officially informed of the postponement of England’s World Cup qualifier against Poland.

A Polish fan runs onto the flooded Warsaw pitch, as a steward goes flying!

Matches have been postponed for every imaginable reason - and a few unimaginable ones - but by far the main reason is the weather. So I decided to take a look back in time at past matches where the weather has intervened and forced the postponement of games.

The referee has sole responsibility for judging if a pitch is playable - in particular if it is safe for the participants to play on - though with modern undersoil heating it's not always because the pitch is frozen and unplayable that forces the postponement. Unsafe terraces/stands or approaches to the ground will also force a postponement, the police and local authority also having responsibility in these areas.

High winds occasionally force a match to be called off. Unusual, but a recent example was the Tranmere v Rochdale fixture that should have been played on Boxing Day 2011, but was called off after high winds damaged the Prenton Park stadium roof causing public safety concerns.

On 28th December 2010 and 1st Jan 2011 Sheffield Wednesday were due to play Yeovil and Peterborough respectively. However Sheffield City Council deemed that both matches could not take place because of frozen and burst pipes which served the toilets and refreshment kiosks. The Safety Advisory Group, chaired by Sheffield City Council recommended no spectators be admitted until all repairs were carried out, and the club's maintenance team was unable to carry out these repairs in the sub-zero temperatures, as further bursts were anticipated when the thaw began.

Carlisle United’s Brunton Park is a League ground prone to flooding from a nearby river, and the consequences are severe for the clubs affected by such flooding. Its not just a case of letting the ground dry but specialist cleaning is needed because of the amount of sludge left behind which is usually contaminated with raw sewage. During the floods of 2005 'Billy the fish' was spotted and rescued from the goalmouth at the Warwick Road End of Brunton Park, just as huge industrial pumps were about to be switched on to start clearing the water off the pitch. He was as deemed a lucky mascot as he had overseen the club’s rise from the Conference to League One in a five year period. Billy died in 2010.

'Billy the fish' with Emma Story at Brunton Park, after the floods of Jan 2005

The most bizarre postponement although not weather related goes to the Torquay v Portsmouth Worthington Cup First Round fixture which was due to be played at Plainmoor on Wednesday 11th August 1999. It was the date of a total eclipse of the sun which was visible in the Torquay area, the first in Britain since 1927. Despite the fact that the date and location of the eclipse was probably known about for hundreds of years the local police left it until shortly before the match to request a postponement. They decided that they didn't have the manpower to police both the match and the influx of visitors expected in the area to witness the eclipse. They couldn't put off the eclipse so a postponement of the match it was! The fixture was eventually played on Tuesday 17th August 1999.

On 21st November 1979 England were due to host Bulgaria in a European Championship qualifier at Wembley, but the match was postponed on the evening of the match due to heavy fog. It was played 24 hours later and England won 2-0, with goals by Dave Watson and Glenn Hoddle.

The British record for postponements of a single fixture, not surprisingly, is for a match in the 'Arctic' north of the country. The Scottish Cup 2nd Round tie between Inverness Thistle and Falkirk was scheduled to be played on the 6th January 1979. However after 29 postponements it was finally played on the 22nd February 1979, with Falkirk winning 4-0 at the 30th attempt to stage the match. Three days later Falkirk lost 1-0 at Dundee in the first attempt to stage the Third Round tie!

Again not weather related, another bizarre situation causing the postponement of not one but three matches came about at Anfield, when a Victorian sewer under Anfield's Kop end collapsed. Liverpool had to play their first three Division One matches of the 1987/88 season all away from home, while repairs were made. It delayed the home debut of one of Liverpool's legendary players - John Barnes - who eventually made a scoring home debut in a 2-0 win against Oxford United on Saturday 12th September 1987.

John Barnes making his 'delayed' debut for Liverpool against Oxford Utd in 1987

Some fixtures are jinxed. The Division One match between Spurs and eventual champions Everton at White Hart Lane in 1969/70 was one of them. The match was originally scheduled for Saturday 29th November 1969, but a heavy fall of snow just before kick-off time forced a postponement. The re-scheduled date was Wednesday 17th December and although the match started it only lasted 30 minutes, before being abandoned when a fault at a sub-station caused floodlight failure. Wednesday 7th January 1970 was the next date pencilled in for the fixture, but that one didn't happen either when Spurs had to play an FA Cup replay that same evening. The game was finally played on Wednesday 11th March after a near three month wait, and three different match programmes having been printed.

By far the worst winter to affect football was in the 1962/63 season when a 'big freeze' decimated football in this country for three months with hundreds of matches being called off or abandoned. Only three FA Cup third round ties were played on the scheduled date, the 5th January 1963, with the last tie in that round being played on 11th March. The Lincoln v Coventry tie was called off 15 times and fourteen of the other ties suffered ten or more postponements! From 8th December, when they beat Spurs 1-0, to 16th February when they lost 3-2 at Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers did not play a single competitive match.

Various ideas were tried to beat the big freeze, however, even if a pitch was made playable the terraces and surrounds to the ground were often left treacherous, forcing a postponement. It wasn't until 16th March - nearly three months after the big freeze started - when a complete programme of football was played again. The season was eventually extended to the end of May.

The 1946/47 season - the first post-war League season - was another decimated by a bitter winter. Well over one hundred League matches were postponed and it wasn't until mid-June, seven weeks after the Cup Final was played, that the season finally came to an end. With no floodlights re-arranged matches were played on midweek afternoons, but with coal stocks low and industry almost at a standstill the Government wanted to stop midweek football, to prevent absenteeism from work by the supporters.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Double Bubble at the Palace as The Eagles soar!

Crystal Palace are celebrating a double dose of recognition after Dougie Freedman and Glenn Murray picked up the nPower 'Championship Manager' and 'Player of the Month' awards for September 2012.

Murray & Freedman with their respective awards for September

Following four straight defeats in August, Crystal Palace finished September and started October like a team possessed! Four wins and a draw in September saw The Eagles' gaffer Dougie Freedman win the 'Manager of the Month' award, as his side topped the form charts for the month of September. Freedman led the Eagles to impressive wins away at Charlton and Bolton and recorded home successes against Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff, whilst drawing with Nottingham Forest. Freedman beat Cardiff's Malkay Mackay and Leicester's Nigel Pearson to win the award.

In summary Freedman told "It's a great personal achievement for myself, but a lot of credit has got to go to the whole club. We've come together after a very difficult start to the season, and regrouped and got a few players in the door and since then the results have turned."

A driving force behind this fine run was the clinical form of Glenn Murray. The ex-Rochdale striker bagged six goals in September, four of them slotted calmly home from the penalty spot, and is a deserving winner of the 'Player of the Month' award.

Murray beat off competition from Brighton's Bruno Saltor and Leicester's Wes Morgan. to win the award. With more support up front this season from wingers Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie, Murray's natural link-up play and finishing had a crucial impact in his September six goal tally.

Murray buries a penalty as Palace storm back from 2-0 down to beat Cardiff 3-2

On his award, Glenn said: "I’m really pleased, obviously we’ve had a really great month as a team so it’s very nice to be awarded. The highlight of the month for me would be scoring the winner against Bolton, even though it was a penalty it was an important goal for us."

Freedman added: "It’s good for Glenn and he fully deserves it As an ex-centre forward I know it’s a very difficult job he does. He’s led the line well and played very smart, and he’s been working on his game a lot at the training ground, so he fully deserves all the credit he gets right now."

The two awards are determined by two separate expert panels. The 'Manager of the Month' award is decided by former Charlton Athletic manager Alan Curbishley, Football League chief operating officer Andy Williamson, League Managers Association deputy CEO Olaf Dixon and npower sponsorship manager Emma Collins. The 'Player of the Month' panel sees Emma Collins joined by Wolves legend Don Goodman, BBC Sport’s Mark Clemmit and The Football League’s head of communications, John Nagle.

Npower sponsorship Manager Emma Collins added: "It’s great to see a young manager doing so well, so we’re delighted to be giving the npower Football League Championship 'Manager of the Month' award to Dougie. Crystal Palace’s form in September was the best in the league, so it was one of our easier decisions."

Since September Crystal Palace have continued there good form by winning at Wolves and beating Burnley 4-3 in a thriller at Selhurst Park last Saturday.

On current form Crystal Palace are without doubt South London's number one team!

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Best Selling Replica Club Shirts in the World

A German sport market research company, has released a very interesting survey on the world’s best selling club football shirts.

Dr Rohlmann’s and his PR Marketing team focused on the sales period 2007/8 to 2011/12 inclusive, in order to have the most accurate overview.

Not suprisingly the survey found that Manchester United and Real Madrid are the two clubs selling the most replica shirts with both United and Madrid averaging 1.4million shirts sales globally each year in the past five years !

As the graphic below shows, Barcelona are No.3 on the sales list (Nike, average 1.15m sales a year) followed by Chelsea in fourth place (adidas, 910,000). The top ten also includes Bayern Munich (adidas), Liverpool (adidas during the research period, now Warrior), Arsenal (Nike), Juventus (Nike), Inter Milan (Nike) and AC Milan (adidas).

Chelsea are the most significant ‘climbers’ since detailed market statistics were last published by this site two years ago. They were adidas’s joint-second best sellers with Liverpool and Bayern Munich two years ago, but have moved clear into second place for adidas – and fourth overall – now!

Dr Rohlmann pointed out that "Oscillations are normal because any sporting success or lack of success drives shirt sales, sometimes up, sometimes down, as does the acquisition or sale of particular stars."
For example, in the case of Chelsea, there was a 2011/12 uplift, undoubtedly as a result of their success in the UEFA Champions League. A second example of this would be at Bayern Munich. Bayern sold between 1million and 1.5million replica kit shirts in 2011/12, when Bayern reached the Champions League final (against Chelsea), which was played in their own stadium in their home city of Munich. A third and final example of success increasing shirt sales could be allied to Olympique Marseille. Their average replica shirt sales over the last five seasons is about 350,000 per year. But if you refer exclusively to the 2009/10 season, when they won the French championship, adidas sold nearly 500,000 replica shirts."

Premier League winners Manchester City sold somewhere just over 250,000, but their five-year average is 175,000 per year – sufficient only to place them 17th in Europe.

However, it is important to remember the results of the survey are based solely on the the volume of replica shirts sold and does not include other official club merchandise, such as training kit, jackets, bags, caps, towels, calenders e.t.c.

If the survey were to include all licensed merchandise sold by football clubs, then Liverpool would be ahead of Real Madrid. Liverpool are adidas’s top-selling team in terms of sales of overall merchandise.

The official Manchester United Investor Relations website says that "over five million items of Manchester United (Nike) branded licensed products were sold in the last year, including over two million Manchester United jerseys." Dr Rohlmann says that for 40 per cent of all United merchandise to be shirts "is extremely high compared to other top European football clubs."

The market research looked in particular at the major European leagues (La Liga, Barclays Premier League, Serie A TIM, Ligue 1 Orange, Bundesliga). However the PR marketing team also looked into big clubs in "less powerful leagues" to assess their value. The conclusion was that no other club in any other European league came close to matching the sales of the top ten listed clubs.

First and foremost, the richest football clubs have the marketing power to create, market and sell their football shirts. Secondly, the power of the domestic league is also a crucial element.

Out of the top 10 teams, four came from the English Premier League: Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, three from Seria A: Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus, two from La Liga: FC Barcelona and Real Madrid and one from the Bundesliga: Bayern Munich.

Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, 'the big hitters' of the Turkish Super Lig, both adidas teams, have a huge amount of local and global fans. However their replica shirts sales would amount to a lesser number than the 10th highest ranked club. Another element to consider is the amount of counterfeit clothing products coming out of from Asia and Turkey. This has a very damaging effect on club sales of official merchandise in the less glamorous and affluent leagues.

A 'big' club like Ajax Amsterdam, an adidas club, in a 'small' league like the Dutch Eredivisie league might expect to sell 100,000 shirts and probably fewer in most seasons. Glasgow Celtic, a Nike club are believed to be the biggest sellers among Scotland’s clubs, with 'good year' sales at the lower end of the top 10, ie: several hundred thousand per year, many of them overseas in North America, Canada and Australia. This is still somewhat less than the likes of AC Milan or Inter which sell an average of 350,000 to 425,000 units per calender year.

Source: Dr Peter Rohlmann,  and

When it comes to sporting the name of their favourite Premier League player on the back of a replica shirt, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is officially the most popular choice of fans around the world.

Global sales data from Sporting iD, who determined the top five by the number of player names sold for official replica shirts, said it was a close race for the top three positions.

Rooney edged out Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Chelsea frontman Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo, formerly with Manchester United and now with Real Madrid, is the fourth most popular over the 20 seasons of the Premier League, with Chelsea's Frank Lampard fifth.

Sporting iD global sales and marketing director Rob Thayne said: "We first started producing Rooney's official player identity in 2002, after he made his professional debut with Everton at the age of 16. We then had to expand that production greatly following his move to Manchester United in the summer of 2004. But Rooney truly went into a league of his own in 2007 when Ruud van Nistelrooy vacated the Manchester United number 10 shirt, and there is a global demand that shows no sign of abating."

Rooney is the first United player to lead the list since Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2007/08 season. But one name could have beaten Rooney to the award. "Had David Beckham remained in the Premier League then the list might have looked different. Certainly his move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2003 triggered record sales of 'Beckham 23' shirts, and before him Eric Cantona was a best seller in the 1990's," said Rob Thayne.

Source: Data supplied by

Monday, October 01, 2012

Babes of the Month - Ryder Cup Birdies!

 Kristin Stape, girlfriend of Graeme McDowell

Diane Donald, wife of Luke Donald

Katy Rose, wife of Justin Rose