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English Football in the Snow 1963 / English Football in the Snow 1963

English Football in the Snow 1963

By on 2 March 2018

Underfloor heating, grassy pitches – luxury! Weather like we are currently experiencing only really tends to get games called off if the spectators can’t get to the ground safely.

Compare and contrast! In January 1963, not a single First Division match was played in English football due to the snow and freezing conditions. And it certainly created some controversy as clubs, under huge pressure to be fair, fought to try and get games played. As Pat Collins says in this article from Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, March 1963, football began to make itself a laughing stock as matches took place in unplayable, farcical conditions.

Leicester City, did not play a game from Boxing Day through to February 9th in that season. After which they went on a run that saw them top the table with nine games to go. Sadly for the Foxes, tired legs got the better of them as the postponed fixture pile-up and injuries took their toll and they could only manage a finishing spot of fourth after winning just one of those nine games.


A Farce

by Pat Collins

I THOUGHT English Soccer was growing up. I had hoped that we had tossed out most of the hoary old ideas and restrictions which had stifled the game for so long. In this year of 1963 I thought we would see an effort to make this game the progressive, entertaining business—and sport—that it should be.

Gates had zoomed; standards improved. We were, at last, on the right lines. So I thought. Then came the ice and the longest cold spell since 1947. And football slipped up!

Some clubs have been lauded, pointed to as examples for getting a game or two played. They, it was said, upheld the tradition that the game must go on. But those clubs get no medals from me.

Neither do the referees who made the decision to play. I don’t think those clubs did themselves, or the game, the slightest good. They set us back, in fact. Back to the days when we put our hands on our hearts and said: “We’re not soft like some. We can play under any conditions.”

Most neutral observers, including myself, thought the County ground possible to play on—but unfit for professional League football as either an entertainment, test of real tactics, or a safe place to take tumbles.

Roger Malone, “Doug Herald”, Jan 14

What an empty boast that was. And is! I didn’t see all the games-on-ice. Most of them I missed on principle … on the principle that as there could be no guarantee of proper conditions for a football MATCH—as opposed to a pantomime on ice—they shouldn’t start.

I reproduce here, in support of my opinion, extracts from newspaper reports.

It is too late now to say how we should have beaten the freeze-up. Our grounds are NOT equipped or prepared for such Siberian times.

But football is a business and entertainment. You cannot excuse “icecapades” by saying that the players did their best “under the circumstances”.

This winter has been abnormal. We knew the season would have to be extended to enable the League and Cup competition to be settled. Why, then, didn’t all clubs wait? I estimate that Spurs’ Cup game against Burnley and the following League match with Blackpool cost them about 50,000 customers. Spurs may be able to afford to toss away the cash that represents. Few other clubs can.

I don’t exonerate the clubs from all blame for the position we now find ourselves in. If they had accepted the Management Committee’s sensible plan to increase the number of divisions, and so let some air into the fixture lists, we could have coped even under these abnormal conditions. I trust they will see sense soon.

Major H. Wilson Keys, chairman of West Bromwich, has accused clubs of not trying hard enough to get games played. Jimmy Seed, now a Millwall director, thought the Football League were lax in allowing clubs to give in to the situation too easily. I couldn’t agree with them less. I don’t think chances should have been taken with the safety and status of players, and with the fans’ expectation of Soccer value for money.

Possibly those players who fell over less than others were having a skilful game—considering the conditions. But why should the fans, who pay the same to watch this idiocy on ice as they do to see Brighton playing on a perfect pitch, have to make these allowances? A pitch is meant to be played on—not against.

Brian James. “Daily Mail, Jan. 14.

We have to accept a lot from our winters in the form of mud and rain. But we do NOT have to accept conditions in which a player wonders where every step will land him, and be afraid, or unable, to turn sharply.

Let us grow up. Playing under such conditions doesn’t prove that we are still as tough as we were—merely just as silly. World football has enjoyed a good laugh over British football trying to prove no apparent point that way.

And the 1963 fan cannot be kidded into believing he is hardier than his fellows by standing on snow-covered or treacherous, icy terraces. Not enough of them, anyway, to make it pay.

In keeping with this nonsense was the determination of the F.A. Cup Committee to press on with the Fourth Round draw when only three of the 32 Third Round ties had got under way, thus giving us a dehydrated set of alternatives in place of the annual high drama.

I walked on that pitch. It was a sand-spread skid-patch. It was not safe. When an accurate kicker like Palace’s Ronnie Allen struggles to get over a corner, then there MUST be something wrong. When players finish a match with their legs torn to shreds by ice, then it’s lunacy to put it on at all. I’m not knocking manager Curtis and his ground staff for their efforts. They did a great job-but even diehard fans agreed the match was a farce.

Ken Jones, “Daily Mirror”. Jan. 14.

Because of the extension of this season—and floodlights—I believe that attendances in kinder weather will boost gates even higher than we had hoped. But football will hardly have deserved such good fortune.