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SBD Global/October 18, 2012/International Football

England's World Cup Qualifying Washout At Poland Results In Refunds, Finger Pointing

The roof was closed on Warsaw's National Stadium hours before England and Poland played to a 1-1 draw Wednesday.
Hundreds of England football fans who returned home from Poland after Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifying fixture was postponed due to rain "will be refunded the cost of their match tickets," according to Rory Smith of the LONDON TIMES. Anyone not able to attend the rescheduled match will be "able to submit their unused ticket to the FA," which will then pass it on to its Polish colleagues to ratify. The FA also had staff members on the turnstiles at the National Stadium in Warsaw Wednesday afternoon to "register those fans in attendance in a bid to accelerate the process of establishing which fans have been forced to return home." An FA statement Wednesday said, “The Polish FA have today confirmed that they will set up a refund process for unused match tickets. Therefore, fans who are unable to attend the rescheduled match today will be able to claim a refund for the cost of their match ticket." The FA has also confirmed that any fans still in Warsaw and able to attend the game but with tickets rendered illegible by rain "will be assisted by the association’s staff and members of the Football Embassy established in the city by the Football Supporters’ Federation." It is unclear whether fans will be reimbursed for the cost of travel to the Polish capital, though it is "thought to be unlikely" (LONDON TIMES, 10/17). Also in London, Smith wrote that estimates on how much the trip has cost fans varied from around £350 ($566) for those who flew elsewhere and traveled overland to Warsaw, to £500 ($808) for those on organized trips with chartered flights. Few "were optimistic that they would see any refund on that money" (LONDON TIMES, 10/17).

FAN FARE: Former England Manager Graham Taylor described the organization of the match as "like Monty Python" and added, "If I were a fan, I'd be booing too" (London INDEPENDENT, 10/17). The London GUARDIAN reported that England's players will help fund a £50,000 ($80,800) money-back scheme for fans affected by Tuesday night's World Cup postponement in Warsaw. The FA has confirmed that "those who do stay will also be assisted, helped by the England Footballers Foundation." England captain Steven Gerrard said, "We know that fans have spent money and taken time off work to travel to Poland, and we don't take it for granted. The supporters have the complete respect of the whole squad" (GUARDIAN, 10/17). In London, Dominic Fifield reported that Warsaw's National Stadium had closed the covering above the pitch by about midnight as ground staff "started work in earnest on the sodden turf." It was opened again for a period on Wednesday morning to allow air into the arena and sunshine on to the surface, which was only relaid last week at a cost of £115,000 ($186,000). The roof was closed by the time the game kicked off at 5pm local time.The forecast had been for showers in Warsaw Wednesday, though the weather was sunny. The match ended in a 1-1 draw (GUARDIAN, 10/17).

POLAND A 'LAUGHING STOCK': REUTERS' Chris Borowski reported that the Polish FA was "facing an immediate backlash" after the decision to leave the retractable roof open despite the city "suffering from a sustained storm." Retired Poland footballer Tomasz Iwan said, "We were made into a laughing stock."  Polish FA spokesperson Agnieszka Olejkowska said that neither the clubs or FIFA "wanted to make the decision to close the roof." Olejkowska: "None of the sides wanted such a solution. We knew there would be heavy rain, but we could not 100% predict the downpour" (REUTERS, 10/17). In Warsaw, Andrew Kureth reported that both teams, fans and commentators "voiced their frustration, but there was little that could be done." The pitch "resembled a swamp." Local Polish newspapers Wednesday morning dubbed the National Stadium the “National Swimming Pool.” A spokesperson for the National Sports Center, the stadium's owner, said, “We’re not able to make the decision to close the roof without the presence of the FIFA match delegate. He did not arrive until 7pm, by which time it was raining” (WARSAW BUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/17).
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