The Sweeper: Snow Days in Europe

Snow Soccer

Big Story
Driving through the snow in Chicago this weekend, I was reminded of why Sepp Blatter is batshit crazy when he thinks we should be playing winter soccer here in the United States. As MLS Commissioner Don Garber pointedly told Sepp, Chicago is Moscow in December, and they’re not playing much soccer in Russia right now either.

But nor are they playing much in Italy. Four Serie A games were postponed this weekend due to the snow, and Italian Football Federation president Giancarlo Abete was not happy about it, complaining that the state of the stadia in the country has to improve: “It’s a well-known matter of fact that Italian stadiums are not functional,” Abete said. The head of the Italian coaches association Renzo Ulivieri also chimed in, calling for modernisation and also questioning the number of evening kick-offs.

Most upset was Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani, who raged that:

I was at the Stadio Franchi [in Florence] and saw up close that the pitch was in perfect condition, a resplendent green. That’s because there is a heating system and the ice left no trace. But the stands in Florence, much like in Bologna and almost all our stadiums, are out in the open. The consequences are inevitable. The ground is iced over and the authorities do not feel prepared to let the game go ahead with risks for public safety. We made an inevitable decision. I am too old to win this battle. They played everywhere else in Europe this evening. The problem is the stadiums. We need to change the grounds. There is nothing else to say. Merry Christmas.

There’s no doubt Italy’s antiquated stadia needs upgrading. But in England, tonight’s evening game between Bolton and Wigan has also been called off because of safety concerns for supporters, due to hazardous conditions around the stadium. Sometimes the weather is what it is, and if you choose to play through deepest winter, these are the consequences — even in the milder parts of Europe. Those sensible Germans, meanwhile, will be off on their winter break now (congrats to autumn champs Bayer Leverkusen), saving supporters from the difficulties of attending matches in the freezing cold. Perhaps a Northern Hemisphere-wide winter break might be best for everybody, and conveniently for us in the U.S., that might put us more in line with the rest of the world — even satisfying Sepp.

Worldwide News

  • There’s plenty in the English press on John Terry, who needs to explain how he fell victim to a tabloid sting operation involving £10,000 in £50 notes as a fee for a tour of Chelsea’s training ground. You can see the video here. Fortunately for Terry, Carlos Ancelotti is “not interested” in watching the video.
  • Sixteen clubs have formally applied to be a part of the FA Women’s Super League, slated to (finally) launch in England in the summer of 2011. With just eight spots available, that’s a healthy indicator for the league, though the FA now faces some tough choices as at least two teams currently in their Premier League won’t be able to make the cut.
  • Stan Kroenke inches closer to forcing a takeover bid at Arsenal, collecting 25 more shares in the club, now just 17 away from a key 30% threshold.
  • Who is to blame for the Mark Hughes firing? The English press has rallied around Sparky today, perhaps due to what Richard called yesterday “the cacophony of outrage from other Premier League managers, past and present.”  The bones are picked over, with James Ducker saying City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak is willing to take “personal responsibility” for the decision, perhaps to spare City’s owner Sheikh Mansour from some of the fallout. Meanwhile, Sam Wallace lays into CEO Garry Cook and “football administrator” Brian Marwood for the manner of the firing, City’s biggest PR error: “No matter how you judge the merits of Hughes’ record at City, or the arguments for and against keeping him, his sacking was a despicable affair, presided over by City’s Garry Cook and Brian Marwood – perhaps the Brian Potter and Jerry St Clair of Premier League football executives.”

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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