Birmingham may face charges after pitch causes postponement

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The Independent Football

The Football League will investigate the circumstances which forced Birmingham to postpone today's Championship game against Leeds after problems with the new St Andrew's pitch.

Birmingham's managing director, Karren Brady, said the club would have to lay another pitch after adverse weather rendered the recently installed one unplayable. The club postponed the game after a pitch inspection, at which League officials were present, due to "the safety and condition of the newly laid turf".

The surface was dug up and replaced after last weekend's FA Cup tie with Newcastle but concern had been voiced that it would not be ready in time for the meeting with Leeds.

A club statement said: "Following discussions this morning with the Football League's official turf expert, Steve Baker, the match referee Rob Styles and referees manager Jim Ashworth, the club has conceded that our game against Leeds should not go ahead due to the safety and condition of the newly laid turf.

"On this basis the club has no option but to request to the Football League that our Championship fixture this Saturday versus Leeds United is postponed.

"While it is possible for the turf to be laid and prepared in time for the game on Saturday, the pitch inspection this morning has determined that the surface would remain unplayable due to the unexpected atrocious weather conditions already experienced."

Brady said the pitch will have to be relaid yet again. "Due to the club's extensive efforts since the freak rainfall of Tuesday/Wednesday, to get the game on in the face of adversity, all the areas of turf we have just laid will now have to be dug up and a new pitch sought due to the present saturated conditions."

The laying of the new £120,000 pitch, which was the "spare" one for the new Wembley Stadium, has been hampered by adverse weather conditions in recent weeks.

The club were going to relay the pitch in Christmas but because of freezing temperatures they were forced to reschedule to this week. But heavy rainfall has hampered preparations and the club even called in an agronomist - a soil management expert.

This is the first time a senior game in English football has been postponed due to a newly laid pitch not being ready, and the consequences for the Blues could be serious. They may face a charge of failing to fulfil a fixture and a disciplinary commission could hand out a fine or even impose a points deduction.

Birmingham's need to relay their pitch was emphasised when their striker Nicklas Bendtner suffered an ankle injury after catching it in a divot during the FA Cup tie with Newcastle which ended 2-2. The on-loan Arsenal player will be out for around a month.