• Jack Bishop

THE BIG FREEZE OF 1963: THE WINTER THAT BROUGHT THE UK AND SPORTS TO A 3-MONTH STANDSTILL


The busy festive fixture programme every year is a period always looked forward to by football fans.

However, there have been times where the fierce winter conditions have ruined the schedule and caused chaos.

One of the worst examples is the Big Freeze of 1963, one of the coldest Christmas periods to date.

The Big Freeze of 1963: During the 1962/63 season, enforced a three-month sabbatical due to freak weather occurred. It threatened not only the national game, but the country as a whole.

With artic winds and snow sweeping the nation on boxing day which remained on the ground until late March, it led to the winter being one of the coldest in living memory.

Unsurprisingly the country was brought to a standstill as the weather also took its effect on the sporting calendar.

Lincoln City’s game with Coventry City was postponed a shocking 14 times

Meanwhile, in Scotland, a cup tie between Stranraer and Airdrie was called off an astonishing 33 times.

It was similar antics in Yorkshire as well as Barnsley were only able to play just the two matches between 22nd December and March 12th.

Football was arguably the worst hit sport in Britain. The clubs, managers, and players were hit financially as the fixtures increasingly came and went un-played.

The draw for the FA Cup was almost farcical. The fixtures were drawn for each round despite many games being left incomplete as the wait for pitches to thaw out dragged on.

One of the worst hit days of football fixtures was the Third Round of the FA Cup on the 5th of January. It was the worst day in the 92-year history of the FA Cup as only 3 of the 32 scheduled games went ahead.

Thousands of supporters were left frustrated and aided the shovelling of pitches worldwide. However, for most clubs, it was useless to even try and clear the snow as the pitches were unfortunately frozen solid underneath.

With teams left frustrated with a lack of football, they went looking for ways to play and work a way around the conditions. Chelsea managed to arrange a friendly in Malta. Coventry City did similar by flying to Ireland, including a 2-2 friendly against Manchester Utd.

Halifax went with a different approach by turning their pitch into a public ice rink.

It got so extreme to a point where flame throwers were being brought out at Blackpool in an attempt to beat the freeze!

During the particularly harsh winter of 1963, the Pools Panel was created.

Postponed or cancelled matches were judged on by a panel of experts so that the customers could still be in with a chance to win.

The panel consisted of ex-footballers and ex-referees. They predicted 7 draws, 8 away victories and 23 home victories on the 23rd of January and their predictions were broadcasted on television.

Forecasting is a method that is still used by the Pools today in cases of postponed games.

The winter period of 1962/63 will go down as one of the most extreme cases of sport being affected by the harsh winter conditions.