Monday 18 December 2017

Polish sports minister offers to resign over stadium roof fiasco

England manager Roy Hodgson tests the condition of the pitch in the pouring rain
England manager Roy Hodgson tests the condition of the pitch in the pouring rain

POLAND'S sports minister offered to resign today over the embarrassing postponement of the country's World Cup qualifier against England last week after torrential rain turned the National Stadium pitch into a swimming pool.

FIFA ordered the match to be played a day later after the game, originally set for October 16, was called off when officials failed to close a retractable roof over the venue that cost €425m for the Euro 2012 tournament.

The debacle sparked a wave of criticism from fans and pundits and prompted Prime Minister Donald Tusk to vow to punish those responsible. He will present his findings later today.

"I feel politically responsible for the situation," Sports Minister Anna Mucha said. "The responsibility of the minister is not only to make sure that all procedures are followed. It's wider."

The Sports Ministry oversees the National Sports Centre, owners of the stadium, and are blamed by some for failing to anticipate trouble with the playing surface.

Local media reported the pitch was much thinner than the one used for Euro 2012 matches, making it less able to absorb the heavy precipitation.

Organisers said the roof over the 58,000 capacity arena could not be closed during rainfall due to safety concerns and neither of the teams nor FIFA wanted to close it when there was still time.

Poland managed a 1-1 draw in the delayed World Cup qualifier but both managers lamented the effects the delay had on their players.

Thousands of angry fans also complained that they did not attend the match because they could not afford to stay longer in Warsaw and reschedule their tickets home.

Wednesday's game was played under the roof despite sunny weather and mostly clear skies.

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