Weather puts paid to Boxing Day racing

Winter weather ruined the traditional Boxing Day sports programme yesterday, with racing the hardest hit. All 10 scheduled meetings were abandoned due to frost and snow, including the King George VI card at Kempton.

It was the first time since 1962 that the weather had wiped out an entire Boxing Day programme, and the call-off at Kempton came too late to prevent owners, trainers and punters travelling to the course.

The football programme in both England and Scotland was also severely disrupted.Only two of the 18 matches in Scotland survived, the Premier Division meeting between Rangers and Kilmarnock at Ibrox and the First Division game between Dundee United and Hamilton at Tannadice Park. Both games were the beneficiaries of undersoil heating.

Two Premiership matches in England were postponed due to frozen surfaces - West Ham v Coventry and Aston Villa v Liverpool. The match at Upton Park was called off by referee Graham Poll only 70 minutes before kick- off, but Coventry's manager Ron Atkinson had no complaints. "The referee really had no alternative," he said. "The pitch is very hard and if the fans cannot get value for money there is no point playing."

The First Division was hard hit, with the games at Crystal Palace, Leicester, Sunderland and Watford all being postponed.

Greyhound racing was also badly affected, with 11 fixtures off. The BAGS meeting at Romford, originally put back for an hour, was finally called off around noon. That left bookmakers with just one dog meeting, at Bristol, to attract Christmas punters.

A number of rugby union club matches were called off, along with 11 of the 13 scheduled rugby league matches. Leeds were able to entertain Castleford at Headingley, while undersoil heating also ensured that leaders Wigan were able to play their game against St Helens at Central Park.

Racing frozen out, page 20

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