This weekend was supposed to have represented one of the key battles in the struggle for this year's Premier League crown. Chelsea vs. Manchester United at Stamford Bridge is one of the sport's biggest domestic events, but instead of getting to see the two best teams in the country duke it out we got... a snow day.
I have lived in England and the Pacific Northwest - two places that are legendarily incompetent when it comes to snow, so trust me, I get that games can be cancelled based on what many would consider 'light' snowfall. Snow simply doesn't happen that often in either place and as a result everyone is singularly ill-equipped to deal with it. A couple of inches wouldn't make a New Englander blink, but in Olde England the most important airport in the country has been closed for two days as a result of a little bit of powder.
So yeah, if things are to the point where the transportation system shuts down, cancel some games. Even if the pitch is playable (and with Chelsea's undersoil heating system, the pitch had bloody well better be playable), the safety of the fans should come before the need to avoid fixture congestion. I think safety's a great idea.
The game, which was supposed to be played on Sunday evening, was called off on Saturday, with the streets of London covered in half an inch of slush and more of grit. Granted, it wasn't the only game on the schedule called off by snow - only three out of the ten matches that were supposed to be played this weekend actually made it (assuming Manchester City vs. Everton goes ahead), but none of the other calls to postpone the match happened so far in advance.
Pitches were unplayable and travel was difficult throughout England this weekend, but on Sunday night the streets of London were more or less clear, public transport was more or less working, and the game could have gone on. Why didn't it? Who makes the call to call a game off?
The CFC official site claims that the game was postponed "following consultation with the Police and the local authority." To me, this implies that the club was calling the shots, and a pretty obvious narrative falls out of all of this.
Chelsea didn't want to play United.
At least, they didn't want to play United right now. I can't blame them, either. Over the last couple of months, the momentum has swung in their favour, and Chelsea's title challenge has rather sputtered. Didier Drogba is off-form, Frank Lampard is barely fit, and the whole team is struggling with reinforcements at least two weeks away. I still think that Chelsea would have been fine in general, but by postponing the game they probably have a better chance of three points down the road. I'd have done the same thing in their shoes.
But if the club really did get the game called off under dubious circumstances, you have to wonder why on earth they have the power to do such a thing. Yeah, it's December and there's some snow on the ground. That absolutely should not give Chelsea - or any other team - the right to play silly buggers with the fixture list. I think this works out in our favour, absolutely I do, but it's still an unfair manipulation of the schedule and if I were a United fan I'd be furious about this. No team should have the right to unilaterally postpone a match.
We could have played the game. We didn't. That it happened to benefit the team I follow doesn't really matter - this is a totally unacceptable situation and one that the league needs to prevent from happening again.