Volcano fallout felt from Manchester to Shanghai
Manchester: From the Manchester soccer derby to the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai, sport felt the fallout from the cloud of volcanic ash hanging over northern and central Europe on Saturday.
The closure of airports across Britain for the third successive day, causing travel chaos and leaving thousands stranded around the world, brought a whiff of controversy to the Premier League’s headline clash between Manchester City and United at Eastlands.
Referee Steve Bennett had to be replaced when he was unable to get back from Romania where he was overseeing a course for match officials.
His replacement Martin Atkinson was hardly City’s favourite after he refereed their 4-3 league defeat at Old Trafford in September, with United’s Michael Owen grabbing a 96th-minute winner after the official had awarded just four minutes of extra time.
The city’s other red team, Salford City rugby league club, were having to travel by coach to Perpignan in the south of France for a cup match on Sunday.
“It’s certainly not our preferred method but the game has to be played,” head coach Shaun McRae told the club website (http://reds.originalreddevils.com).
“With the game not being until Sunday we can afford to take our time a little bit. We’ll be making frequent stops for stretches and exercise and so the players can take on food.”
Yet another red, Liverpool’s injured striker Fernando Torres, was in limbo after being unable to get the all-clear to play from a specialist in his native Spain.
“He needs to see the specialist ... he knows his knee really well,” said manager Rafa Benitez when asked whether Torres might play at home to West Ham United on Monday.
“We have to wait. He is working in the gym and we will see.”
Formula One felt the effect, with members of the McLaren team staging a last-minute dash from London to Paris to get themselves and potentially vital spare parts on to one of the last flights out before the shutdown on Thursday.
“We have got a few people who were going to be latecomers who won’t be here now but we’ve got everything we need to perform this weekend,” team boss Martin Whitmarsh told reporters.
Getting the personnel and equipment back after Sunday’s race could prove more complicated although the sport is nothing if not resourceful.
“The great thing about Formula One is it is hugely adaptable, they’ll sort it out,” former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan, grounded in London and unable to travel to Shanghai to carry out his role as BBC television pundit, told Reuters.
“The freight I can’t see coming back to the UK. I think they will probably go straight to Barcelona and the trucks will leave from here as usual.
“Fortunately we’ve got a whole heap of time before the next flyaway (race).”
The next grand prix after China is the Spanish race in Barcelona on May 9 followed by Monaco and then Turkey -- all races where the cars and freight are transported by road or ferry boat.
The Canadian Grand Prix, in Montreal on June 13, is the sport’s next long-haul destination.