What are the strangest reasons that football matches have been postponed for? Let’s check out five of the most bizarre!
Blackburn Rovers v Middlesbrough (1996): Flu Epidemic
In 1996, when a bout of flu ravaged Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough squad just before Christmas, the club decided to call off their English Premier League (EPL) game at Blackburn the day before the match. Middlesbrough claimed that a total of 23 players were unavailable because of illness, injury, or suspension.
Later, there would be severe consequences for Middlesbrough. At the resulting EPL inquiry, Blackburn argued that they should have been awarded the points. Eventually, the match was ordered to be played at a later date and Middlesbrough suffered a £50,000 fine and a 3 point deduction. When the two sides finally met the game finished in a draw, but the three-point penalty would be crucial as it ultimately saw Middlesbrough relegated on the final day of the season.
Estonia v Scotland (1996): One Team in Tallinn
Also in 1996, Scotland were due to face Estonia in a World Cup qualifier in Tallinn. On the eve of the game, Scotland trained at the Kadrioru Stadium, where they decided that the floodlighting was inadequate. The Scots protested to FIFA, who sympathised, and moved the match forward to 3 PM, from the original time of 6:45 PM.
Estonia were not pleased, especially given the potential loss of television revenue. Therefore, it was widely expected that the side would turn up late in protest. However, the game actually kicked off before the referee abandoned it after three seconds!
Instead of awarding a 3-0 win to the Scots, FIFA ordered that the match be played at the Stade Louis II in Monaco. Scotland midfielder Ian Ferguson was recorded swearing at fans on his exit from the field in what finished as an otherwise dull 0-0 draw.
Frome Town v Chippenham Town (2015): Cheese Festival
FA Cup ties can sometimes be moved to a Friday night in order to cater for a hungry television audience, but this clash between two English non-league sides was hardly going to trouble the schedulers. The game was actually postponed to avoid clashing with the Frome Cheese Show!
The Frome Agricultural and Cheese Show, which was being held on the same weekend, regularly attracts more than 20,000 visitors. Therefore, officials of the Southern League Premier Division club acted due to fears the attendance would be affected if the tie was not moved – it’s fair to say that not too many people were cheesed off at the decision to postpone this match!
Manchester United v Bournemouth (2016): Fake Bomb
Manchester United were due to play Bournemouth in their last EPL fixture of the season on Sunday May 15, 2016. However, as 75,000 fans descended on Old Trafford, news quickly came through that a “suspect device” had been found in one of the toilets, which spread confusion and fear around the ground.
Understandably, the stadium had to be quickly evacuated and the match was called off without a ball being kicked. However, it turned out that the perceived terrorist threat was, in fact, a dummy device which had been used in a security training exercise that week and left in a toilet cubicle by mistake!
Brazil v Argentina (2021): Covid-19 Protocols
When these two giants of South American football met in their World Cup qualifier last September, the game was abandoned just minutes after kick-off due to an alleged breach of Covid-19 protocols. Brazilian health officials came onto the pitch in a dramatic intervention to stop the participation of four players they believed had broken quarantine rules by not self-isolating after flying in from the U.K.
The players with EPL clubs were Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez of Aston Villa, and Giovani lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham Hotspur. They were all fined and then deported. So far, no date has been given for when this match will eventually be played.