Dedicated referee milks big freeze

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The Independent Online
ON A day when the majority of fixtures were postponed before the breakfast cornflakes were out of their packet, one rugby league match was cancelled at the last minute because of one man's dedication to delivering milk.

Officials at Castleford, who were due to stage the Silk Cut Challenge Cup fourth round tie against St Helens, rose to find the Wheldon Road ground under six inches of snow, making it impossible to remove the covers that had been put on to protect the surface.

"There were snow drifts in the stand as well," the Castleford secretary, Denise Cackett, said, "so it was obvious to us all that the match couldn't go ahead. We couldn't call it off, though, until our local referee, Steve Presley, had made an inspection. He was out on his milk-round, which obviously took him longer than usual. But, bless him, as soon as he had got home and got warmed up he came straight down here and was able to confirm that the game was off."

Football was the biggest victim round the country, with 55 games in England and Scotland called off - two short of the all-time record set on 9 February 1963, although today's figure includes 11 matches in the GM Vauxhall Conference.

Four race meetings, 10 greyhound fixtures and seven of rugby union's eight Pilkington Cup fifth-round ties bit the dust. Even ice hockey has suffered, with three games being victims of the weather because visiting teams were unable to travel.

Southampton's FA Cup tie with Crewe was postponed three hours before the scheduled kick- off. The referee, Paul Alcock, declared the Dell pitch playable but the match was postponed for safety reasons because water in the fire hoses had frozen.

Sheffield United launched a massive operation to make sure that today's televised FA Cup tie against Aston Villa can be played. The Bramall Lane pitch was under six inches of snow, but after this had been removed by snowploughs, the pitch was found to be soft and perfectly playable, the undersoil heating system having been left on all night.