Football is a beautiful game, known for its passionate fans, electrifying atmospheres, and unexpected twists. Yet, sometimes, the drama transcends the pitch and takes on a life of its own.
It’s one of the most annoying things as a fan. There you are, all geared up for the game and then… it’s off. Postponements are typically caused by inclement weather, injuries, or other common factors, but it’s the instances where the weirder, more unusual scenarios have interfered with matches are the ones that truly pique our interest.
And as the winter season inevitably brings about the threat of postponements galore, Football FanCast has put together a list of cancelled games so bizarre that they border on the unbelievable. Here are some of the odder examples of games getting the chop…
Old Trafford bomb scare halts season finale
15th May 2016: Manchester United vs Bournemouth
In 2016, fans gathered at Old Trafford for a highly anticipated match between Manchester United and Bournemouth. However, moments before kick-off, chaos ensued as the game was postponed due to a bomb scare.
The stadium was evacuated, bomb disposal experts were called in, and a suspicious package was discovered. After a tense investigation, it turned out to be a dummy device left behind following a security exercise.
Though no real danger was present, this incident remains a reminder that football can throw up unexpected twists.
Kangaroo interrupts play
20th March 2018: Canberra FC vs. Belconnen United
Football matches are no strangers to pitch invaders, but in Australia, it’s not unruly fans but a kangaroo that caused a game to be delayed.
In 2018, during a match between Canberra FC and Belconnen United, a single kangaroo decided to make the pitch its home, laying on one of the goal lines in a women’s league clash.
Australia is known for its unique wildlife, no matter where you are, you’re never too far from a kangaroo.
Alien activity illuminates Fiorentina skyline
27th October 1954: Fiorentina v Pistoiese
In October 1954, an astonishing event unfolded during a football match between Fiorentina and Pistoiese at Florence’s Stadio Artemio Franchi. With the stadium brimmed with spectators for a local derby, the game came to an abrupt pause during the second half.
Fans and players alike were captivated by unusual, egg-shaped objects in the sky, which left behind a peculiar, snow-like substance that gradually dissipated over an hour. The match was suspended, with the referee’s report citing the reason as “spectators seeing something in the sky”.
Intriguingly, this UFO sighting coincided with numerous similar sightings in Tuscany that day. Despite an official explanation attributing the phenomenon to migrating spiders, this account remains disputed and a source of enduring mystery for those who witnessed it, leaving an indelible mark at the intersection of football and unexplained occurrences.
Undelivered goalposts cause match cancellation
25th August 2018: Teignmouth vs Crediton United
A South West Peninsula Division One East fixture, pitting Teignmouth against Crediton United, faced an unexpected cancellation when the critical components, the goalposts, failed to materialise. The intended goalposts had been in transit but suffered a delay in delivery.
Unfortunately, relocating the game to Crediton’s venue was not an option due to a pre-existing event scheduled at their ground. Jumpers for goalposts wasn’t an option, either.
This curious turn of events left the anticipated clash without the essential equipment for play, rendering the match unplayable and leaving fans and players alike to ponder the peculiar fate of the missing goalposts.
Middlesbrough refuse to play after illness ravages squad
21st December 1996: Middlesbrough vs Blackburn
In the run-up to Christmas in 1996, a severe flu outbreak swept through Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough squad, leading the club to make a crucial decision. Just one day before their scheduled Premier League match against Blackburn, they cancelled the game, citing a staggering 23-player unavailability due to injuries, illnesses or suspensions.
However, this decision had grave repercussions for Middlesbrough. Following a subsequent Premier League investigation, Blackburn argued that they should have been awarded the points for the unplayed fixture. Ultimately, the authorities ordered the match to be rescheduled. As a consequence of this episode, Middlesbrough incurred a significant penalty of a three-point deduction and a £50,000 fine.
When the rescheduled encounter finally took place, it ended in a draw. Nevertheless, the deduction of three crucial points proved to be decisive, as it ultimately led to Middlesbrough’s relegation on the season’s final day.
Cheese festival given priority over FA Cup clash
27th August 2015: Frome Town vs Chippenham Town
While it’s common for FA Cup matches to be rescheduled for Friday nights to accommodate TV viewers, this particular fixture involving two non-league teams presented a rather unique scenario. The game wasn’t shifted to satisfy broadcasters but was postponed to prevent a scheduling clash with the Frome Cheese Show.
The Frome Agricultural and Cheese Show, drawing over 20,000 visitors annually, was set to take place that same weekend. Fearing a potential drop in attendance if the football match proceeded as planned, officials from the Southern League Premier Division club made the prudent decision to delay the game.
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Unsurprisingly, not many people were disgruntled by this choice, as it ensured that the people could enjoy good cheese and good football on different days.
Total eclipse viewing in Torquay stretches police resources
11th August 1999: Torquay vs Portsmouth
This Worthington Cup First Round fixture was originally slated to take place at Plainmoor, the home ground of Torquay United, on Wednesday, 11th August, 1999. While this scheduling might seem ordinary at first glance, it coincided with a highly extraordinary event: the first total solar eclipse in Britain since 1927.
And as luck would have it, the southwest of England offered the prime viewing location for this rare celestial phenomenon.
Remarkably, even though the date and location of the eclipse had likely been anticipated for decades, the local police found themselves facing a logistical challenge.
They requested the postponement of the match, explaining that their resources were insufficient to manage both the football game and the massive influx of spectators expected to gather for this once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event.
Madonna stage collapse leaves Marseille homeless
16th August 2009: Marseille vs Lille
Madonna has had a long career and stage mishaps are far from uncommon, with one of the most notorious incidents occurring in 2015 when a backing dancer accidentally yanked her off stage by her cape during a Brit Awards performance.
In 2009, an entirely different kind of Madonna-related mishap disrupted the plans of Olympique Marseille. Marseille were meant to be playing Lille for their first home game of the season, but Madonna inadvertently put their stadium out of commission for two months. Just before a Madonna concert was set to take place at the stadium, the stage collapsed.
This unforeseen turn of events prompted a thorough investigation into the incident, leaving Marseille temporarily without a suitable venue for their home matches for a number of weeks, leaving them to play their first home league game of the season in Montpellier. The collision of pop culture and sports in this peculiar episode left the football club grappling with an unusual predicament.
Scotland game delayed after opponents fail to show up
9th October 1996: Estonia vs Scotland
In 1996, Scotland were gearing up for a momentous World Cup qualifier against Estonia. The night before the game, Scotland conducted a training session at the Kadrioru Stadium, but they encountered an issue with insufficient floodlighting. Protesting this issue, Scotland appealed to FIFA, who empathised with their concerns, resulting in the rescheduling of the match. The kick-off time was moved up from 6.45pm to 3pm.
Estonia expressed discontent, mainly due to the potential loss of television revenue. Speculation arose that they might stage a late arrival in protest. To everyone’s surprise, the game kicked off, only to be abandoned by the referee after a mere three seconds.
Rather than awarding a 3-0 victory to Scotland, FIFA mandated that the match be replayed at the Stade Louis II in Monaco. Scotland midfielder Ian Ferguson made headlines for his departure from the field, as he was recorded swearing at fans.
Arsenal’s coach turns up at the wrong ground
4th November 2023: Arsenal U18s vs Brighton U18s
Arsenal’s U18s had a bit of an adventure before their game against Brighton & Hove Albion. Their team coach took a wrong turn on the motorway, heading towards Bournemouth instead, and that set off a chain of delays. The game was supposed to kick off at noon at Brighton’s AMEX Football Centre in Lancing.
The game was initially pushed back, but it was then decided that it should be played on a different day. It goes to show the importance of making sure you know where you’re going.
Football’s charm lies in its unpredictability. In the beautiful game, unexpected events take centre stage – from curious encounters with aliens to games disrupted by cheese-related mishaps. The element of surprise keeps fans, players, and staff on their toes, making every match a thrilling journey into the unknown. You never know what might happen next.