Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'It Wasn't Us It Was United'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'It Wasn't Us It Was United'

Article excerpt

Byline: By Graeme Whitfield

The row over this week's cancelled Newcastle United match escalated last night as the city council's most senior officer laid the blame for the farce squarely with the club itself.

The council has been strongly criticised by football chiefs, fans and motorists for Wednesday night's last-minute cancellation as thousands of fans ( including many from London ( found themselves stranded on icy roads on their way to St James's Park.

But Newcastle City Council chief executive Ian Stratford retaliated yesterday, accusing Newcastle United of making the wrong decision in cancelling the game against Charlton at just 25 minutes' notice, saying that his officers had not been consulted.

Mr Stratford said the council would have wanted the game to go ahead so that fans would be off the streets and gritters could clear the roads.

But one of the critics, taxi boss Chris Chandler, last night insisted the council had been badly prepared for the heavy snows and city roads had been "atrocious" during the build-up to the game, particularly when compared to other local authorities.

The escalation in the row came as Sports Minister Richard Caborn called

on footballing authorities to review procedures on late postponements and Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore promised improvements in future fixture lists.

Mr Stratford said his staff had done everything possible to keep the city's roads gritted and clear on Wednesday.

He said last night: "The decision to call off the game was taken by a safety officer employed by Newcastle United.

"I understand that Northumbria Police did not request a postponement and the city council was not consulted when the decision was announced publicly at 7.20pm ( 25 minutes before kick-off. At this time conditions were no worse than they had been two hours previously.

"Had the club consulted the city council we would have stressed that the sensible solution would have been to go ahead with the match and get 50,000 fans off the streets in order that the planned clearance of roads could have gone ahead. …

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