Football: Lights go out on Wimbledon again

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The Independent Online
The lights went out in a Premiership match for the third time this season last night when the game between Wimbledon and Arsenal at Selhurst Park was eventually abandoned after a floodlight failure 13 seconds into the second half.

Following similar events at Derby County's Pride Park at the start of the season and West Ham's Upton Park last month, the Wimbledon co-owner, Sam Hammam, joined the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, last night in calling for more money to be spent by the Premier League on back-up generators to prevent further fiascos in a league that fancies itself as the best in the world.

"I hope that everyone does not start apportioning blame and looking at this as an isolated incident," Hammam said. "The Premier League has more than enough money, and it is up to its criteria committee to make sure there is a back-up system.

"We have to do whatever it takes. The first time at Derby [when Wimbledon, coincidentally, were the visitors] was bad enough, then at West Ham it wasn't looking pretty, and by tonight we're really in a disaster. But the message has to be: 'Never again'."

An announcement was made over the Selhurst Park public address system as soon as the floodlights failed last night, saying the lights would not come back on for at least 20 minutes, as any attempt to switch them on sooner than that would have blown a fuse. Although they did come back on, they went off again almost straight away with the players in the middle of a five-minute warm-up.

The football that was played was fairly inconsequential, which was fortunate in the circumstances, with Arsenal having marginally the better of it.

The 22,832 paying spectators took it well enough after the initial disappointment, and Vinnie Jones did his inimitable best to entertain them by playing a little football in the dark during the first stoppage. A few minutes later the electric scoreboard flashed up a message saying "Merry Christmas... Anybody Got Any 50ps?" At least that was working, but this is becoming a tiresome trend.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Blackwell, Thatcher, Kimble; Ardley, Jones, Solbakken, Earle; M Hughes, Gayle. Substitutes not used: Castledine, Jupp, Clarke, Cort, Heald (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Bould, Keown, Winterburn; Parlour, Vieira, Platt, Overmars; Bergkamp, Wright. Substitutes not used: Anelka, Boa Morte, Marshall, S Hughes, Manninger (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).