Football: Referee denies foggy faux pas

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The Independent Online
An unrepentant referee, Neale Barry, yesterday stood by his controversial decision to allow Tuesday's fog-bound First Division match between Tranmere Rovers and Norwich City to go ahead.

Some fans at Prenton Park left early in protest at their inability to see much of the action and Radio 5 Live were forced to abandon their plans to give full match commentary. Yesterday, though, the Scunthorpe-based official maintained that he had made the right decision and that he was happy that the game went ahead.

"I was quite happy to start the game," Barry said. "I could see both goals from half-way and my two assistants could see across the pitch.

"The players were superb and made no mention to me that they thought I should abandon the game, and the managers said nothing either.

"I appreciate that a section of the supporters would not have had a brilliant view, but we have to try to get games played. If I had had to abandon it after 10 or 15 minutes then the supporters would not have got their money back, but I was quite happy to start.

"The fog didn't get any worse by the end of the game, although the floodlights did draw it into the corners a little. If the players had started to complain at any stage, I would have begun thinking about calling it off but, while I understand the frustrations of some of the supporters, a referee has to make a decision and I stand by the one I took."

The Norwich manager, Mike Walker, had no complaints after his side's 3-1 defeat, while the Tranmere Rovers manager, John Aldridge, will have been delighted to see his side win a match from which he was suspended.

The Football League also gave its backing to the referee. "Neale thought the conditions were suitable for a game of professional football. He makes the decision and his is the final call," Chris Hull, a League spokesman, said. "I'm sure he took account of the enjoyment of spectators, but normally their conditions and those for the players coincide.

"If the players feel the pitch is fit and the visibility is acceptable, you would expect that would apply for the spectators as well - but we will support Neale."

Coca-Cola have signed a pounds 6m deal to continue their sponsorship of the Football League Cup until the 1999-2000 season. The deal means the drinks giant are now the longest-standing sponsor of an English cup competition, having taken over as sponsors from the high street retailer, Rumbelows, for the 1992-93 season.

"We are delighted that we can continue to work with Coca-Cola in promoting and developing the Coca-Cola Cup," David Sheepshanks, the Football League chairman, said.

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