1962/3 The Biggest Sporting Freeze

Written by on March 1, 2018

One of the most noticeable consequences of the freezing conditions which hit the UK in the winter of 1962–63 was the enormous disruption to the national sporting calendar. For many weeks football matches in both the English and Scottish leagues suffered because of the severe effects of the winter weather.

Several ties in the 1962–63 FA Cup were rescheduled ten or more times, to the point that the 5th and 6th rounds originally scheduled for 16 February and 9 March respectively, were finally played on 16 March and 30 March respectively, with the semi-finals rescheduled from 30 March to 27 April. A board known as the Pools Panel was set up; postponed matches were adjudicated by it, to provide the football pool results. From 8 December to 16 February, Bolton Wanderers played no competitive matches. Both codes of rugby, union and league, suffered much the same fate. All this occurred in the days well before under-soil heating became widespread at major venues. When the thaw arrived, a huge backlog of fixtures had to be hastily dealt with. The Football League season was extended by four weeks from its original finishing point of 27 April, with the final league fixtures (scheduled sports events) taking place one day before the rescheduled FA Cup Final. Some lower-level competitions did not complete their season at all.

National Hunt horse racing was also badly affected, with 94 meetings cancelled during the freeze. There was no racing in England between 23 December and 7 March inclusive, although a meeting at Ayr went ahead on 5 January.

It is maybe a testimony to the level of club football in Scotland at the time that despite having domestic fixtures cancelled Dundee FC reached the European Cup [ now Champions League ] semi final in 1963 before losing over two legs to Italian cracks AC Milan who went onto meet Benfica at Wembley.

At St Johnstone’s old ground [ Muirton Park ] in Perth the groundsman cleared snow from the track around the pitch with a tractor which has a corrugated iron panel fitted to the front of it while volunteers at grounds all over the UK shoveled snow off the pitch in vain attempts to get matches on.

The Scottish Football League of 1962/3 contained two divisions of 18 and 19 clubs respectively. Third Lanark were still part of the Scottish League set-up back then while clubs played each other twice home and away with straight promotion and relegation of two up and two down.

The English League was Divisions 1 to 4 with the bottom club in Div 4 having to reply for re-election to the Football League. They were usually voted back in by the other member clubs down south and it wasn’t until the 1980’s that a Pyramid System saw non-league clubs promoted up the ranks in England. Scotland followed suit just a couple of years ago with their own Pyramid set-up that has since seen Edinburgh City promoted to League 2 at the expense of East Stirlingshire FC.

15 Years On….

1977/8 was also a bad winter with a Partick Thistle v Cowdenbeath Scottish Cup replay called off 29 times before the Jags won the Central Park replay 1-0 after a 1-1 draw at Firhill.

Dennis McQuade netted both Jags goals in the tie [ the equaliser at Firhill coming in the 96th minute ] while Jim Marshall got the Cowden goal in Glasgow scoring against then Scotland international goalie Alan Rough.

The Jags manager at the time was ex-Celtic favourite Bertie Auld.

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