How was the pools panel created?
“When was the pools panel first created and why?” wonders Alex Harries.
Three days before Christmas in 1963, a freezing fog enveloped Britain. Eighteen football matches were called off, with a further eight abandoned mid-game. The fixture card looked utterly decimated at the time, but although nobody knew it, there wouldn’t be this much football again for more than two months. By Boxing Day, the entire country had been covered in snow. Only 17 games were played on 29 December. Come New Year’s Day, not a single match was played. Five third-round FA Cup ties went ahead on 5 January, but with the country in the middle of a Big Freeze, battling -20°C temperatures and 15-foot snowdrifts, the round didn’t get completed until 11 March.
The lack of matches wreaked havoc with the football pools, so Vernons, Zetters and Littlewoods acted quickly. A predictions system was put in place, and on 26 January the Pools Panel sat for the first time. The panel consisted of six men: former England players Tom Finney, Tommy Lawton and Ted Drake, former Scotland full-back George Young, former World Cup referee Arthur Ellis, and John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara. Brabazon was a former Tory MP and aviation pioneer who, in 1909, strapped a wastepaper basket containing a piglet to the wing of a plane to prove that pigs could fly. Their deliberations were made behind closed doors at the Connaught Rooms in London, then announced live on BBC television. Of the 38 matches, the only predictions to raise eyebrows were Leeds to beat Stoke and Peterborough to win at Derby.
The weather slowly broke. There were 11 games on 16 February, then 24 on 23 February – the most since the fog came down on 22 December, and the first day the new Pools Panel wasn’t required. On 16 March the first full league card since mid-December was played.
COLD WINTER KNOWLEDGE ARCHIVE SPECIAL
“There’s a story doing the rounds at my local that Blackpool once resorted authentic canada goose jacket sale to using a flamethrower to thaw out their frozen pitch,” canada goose coat 1000 bulbs coupons wrote Bill Winkles in 2007. “Would I be right to think it’s total guff?”
Well Bill, it’s not best mens canada goose jacket quite true, but it is closer to reality than you might imagine and again involves that bitter winter of 1962-63. Blackpool suffered more than most as their pitch completely froze over to the point where they couldn’t play a single home game between 15 December and 2 March. Some players even took to ice skating on the pitch, as revealed by the following gem, dug out of the West Lancashire Evening Gazette’s archives by Seasiders historian Gerry Wolstenholme:
“At Bloomfield Road Jimmy Armfield and Tony Waiters ice skated on the pitch on 8 January and two days later they were joined by Barrie Martin, ‘Mandy’ Hill and two other players. On 29 January Blackpool used a disc harrow to try to get the game against West Ham United played on 2 February but that too proved ineffective and on 30 January 1963 the players swept a heavy fall of snow from the pitch in a vain hope that it would be clear underneath, buy canada goose jacket in canada but the ice – one to four inches best place buy canada goose jacket toronto thick – was ‘as formidable as ever’.”
But it was actually Norwich who attempted, unsuccessfully, to defrost their playing surface with fire. Their scheduled FA Cup third-round tie at home to Blackpool had been postponed 11 times, and, as the same piece of archive reveals, they were willing to try just about anything by the end. “In an attempt to get the game played, the Carrow Road pitch was treated with flamethrowers on 22 January as, according to a Norwich spokesman, ‘a last desperate effort’. However they ‘served no purpose whatsoever’ for ‘as fast as the ice melted it froze again’. An icebreaker was also used but it too proved ineffective.”
“Do you know which football club opened its ground for ice skating because the pitch was frozen?” asked Kim Vanderhoven in 2002.
Again, the year was 1962-63, and England and Wales were experiencing their coldest winter since 1740 (Scotland, incidentally, was suffering its worst since 1829). Indeed, the winter was so severe that Barnsley managed only two games from 21 December to 12 March. Up the road in can you buy canada goose jacket online Halifax, they hit upon an enterprising idea: why not use the Shay stadium for ice skating?
Ironically, it happened on 2 March when – as the Manchester Guardian booklet “The Long Winter 1962-63” reports – most of the country was, at long last, experiencing a thaw. “Troops relieved a farm on Dartmoor which had been cut off by 20ft snow drifts for 66 days. With only 14 Football League matches postponed, soccer had its best day for 11 weeks. There was still no football at Halifax, but the local club opened its ground as a public ice rink and hundreds skated on it.”
The stunt pulled in a few pennies, but it didn’t do Halifax any good – they scraped only 30 points all season and were relegated to the Fourth Division, along with Carlisle, Brighton and Bradford Park Avenue.
“Down at the pub the other night, a friend of mine bullishly claimed he’d heard that a match was once postponed on almost 30 separate occasions. Is he having me on?” asked Jonathan Gainter in 2006.
Hail your friend, Jonathan, as he speaks the truth. In the icy winter of 1979, the Scottish Cup second-round clash between Inverness Thistle and Falkirk had to be postponed no fewer than 29 times. The original date for the game was 6 January, but the clubs had to wait 47 days until the Kings Mills ground was eventually declared playable, on 22 February. When the match finally took place kids, four first-half goals helped Falkirk seal their spot in the third round. However, because of the 71-day period between the second-round draw best canada goose jacket womens and Falkirk’s canada goose coat 1000 win, Billy Little’s side were forced to visit Dundee just three days later in round three, when a late penalty ended their cup journey.
Incredible as these 29 postponements are, the tie is still eclipsed by another Scottish Cup game that took place 16 years earlier, when sub-zero conditions again played havoc with the fixture list – and not just in Scotland but across Britain. More than 400 English league and cup matches fell victim to the weather and the season had to be extended by a month on both sides of the border. best fake canada goose jacket While buy canada goose jacket nyc one FA Cup third-round tie between Coventry and Lincoln eventually took place at the 16th time of asking, the clash between Airdrie and Stranraer was busy setting a British record of 33 postponements. For Airdrie it was 34th time lucky as they ran out 3-0 victors.
Incidentally, the worst day of domestic cancellations didn’t occur in 1962-63. That honour went to 3 February 1940, when only one of 56 wartime league matches beat the weather. Plymouth made the most of their moment in the limelight with a 10-3 thumping of Bristol City.
• For many more sepia-tinged questions and answers, visit the Knowledge archive.
CALL THAT A WHITE-OUT?
Look back at games through history that have been blighted by the cold weather with our gallery.
CAN YOU HELP?
“Has a player in a top league ever been injured by a linesman’s flag?” asks Chris Brooks. “How about a fourth official’s board? A whistle?”
“Who was the first player that we know to wear gloves on the pitch?” wonders Nick Higgins.
“What is the coldest recorded temperature that a football match has been played in?” muses Stephen Robbins.
“While we’re on weather what is the hottest, wettest, highest amount of snowfall and windiest conditions during a match?” asks Paul Grocott.
Send your questions and answers to firstname.lastname@example.org.