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Top 10 sporting postponements

ESPN staff
September 27, 2013
Scotland's three-second long World Cup qualifier against Estonia © Getty Images

With David Haye's showdown with Tyson Fury pushed back to February after the former hurt himself in training, ESPN delves into the archives for a look at some other famous - and infamous - sporting postponements...

10. There's only one team in Tallinn!

Bizarre circumstances led to one of football's wittier chants in October 1996, as Scotland's Tartan Army sang 'There's only one team in Tallinn' when hosts Estonia failed to turn up for a World Cup qualifying match in their nation's capital.

With one point separating the two sides in the European Group 4 table, Craig Brown's men travelled to the Baltics with high hopes of victory. However, after the visitors complained to FIFA about the state of the Kadrioru Stadium floodlights a night prior to the game, the Estonian FA were unhappy with the governing body's decision to move kick-off forward to the afternoon. In protest, the Estonian team continued to prepare an evening start.

Sticking to the rearranged time, referee Miroslav Radoman led Scotland onto pitch and allowed Billy Dodds to kick off, before blowing his whistle to abandon the match after three seconds of play.

Expecting a 3-0 win by default (which was the official ruling for a team no-showing), the Scottish contingent was left hugely confused by FIFA's decision to order a replay in Monaco (obviously!) which ended in a 0-0 draw.

However, future results left the rest of the world even more dumbfounded - when Scotland actually managed to qualify for a World Cup.

9. Testing times for the ICC

The ICC doesn't do simple.

In 2009, world cricket's governing body first proposed the idea of a World Test Championship during a meeting at the Marylebone Cricket Club. Further meetings in 2010 led to the ICC approving the plan, before announcing the inaugural tournament would be held in 2013 in England and Wales and the first final hosted at the home of cricket, Lord's.

The plan was for the World Test Championship to replace the ICC Champions Trophy as the body desired only one pinnacle tournament for each format of the game over a four-year period - limited overs cricket still boasted the Cricket World Cup while the Twenty20 World Cup remained ever popular.

However, in 2011, the ICC announced the cancellation of the 2013 World Test Championship, citing financial difficulties amid pressure from television companies over broadcasting rights. The body maintained the championship would be held in 2017, provisionally in England and Wales, and that the Champions Trophy would be played for the last time in 2013 in order to satisfy television demand. The decision drew widespread criticism around the world, with the Guardian simply reporting it as a "demoralising outcome for English cricket".

8. The Sick Nations

The highly infectious foot and mouth disease took hold of Britain in the summer of 2001. But how did a livestock virus postpone several Six Nations matches?

Severe travel restrictions were put in place between Britain and Ireland, meaning Ireland's matches had to be pushed back until, it was agreed, 30 days after the last case was recorded.

As a result, the first five rounds of matches were held between February 3 and April 8, while England had to wait until October 21 to be crowned champions.

7. Golf pays its respects after 9/11

European captain Sam Torrance hoists the Ryder Cup trophy at the 2002 Ryder Cup © Getty Images

The biennial Ryder Cup was first played in 1927 and competed in odd-numbered years thereafter.

But the September 11 attacks on New York City in 2001 led to the Euro-American slobberknocker, due to be held just two weeks later at The Belfry near Birmingham, being pushed back a year.

It was also decided the competition would continue to be held in even numbered years - with the already-scheduled 2003 and 2005 editions being pushed back to 2004 and 2006 respectively. It also resulted in the ladies equivalent, the Solheim Cup, and the Presidents Cup, a similar competition between the US and the Rest of the World, both of which are played in non-Ryder Cup years, being moved.

The teams, which had already been selected in 2001 before the terrorist attacks, were kept exactly the same for the event a year later, and all reference to the competition remained as the 2001 Ryder Cup, including insignia and hoardings around the course.

When the Cup was eventually played, the European team ran out 15½-12½ winners, prompting then Prime Minister Tony Blair to quip: "What about the Ryder Cup, eh? Britain in Europe at its best. Me and George Bush on opposite sides."

As the kids might say: Banter.

6. I predict a riot

As sung by, most notably, The Smiths and Kaiser Chiefs, rioting took a stranglehold on Britain in August 2011 in a bizarre show of anti-authoritarianism that began as a protest against a police shooting in Tottenham and morphed into anarchy across London and even other parts of the UK.

With police resources concentrating their attention on the public disorder, a number of football matches were forced into postponement, including League Cup ties between Charlton and Reading, Crystal Palace and Crawley, and West Ham and Aldershot. Tottenham's opening league fixture of the season against Everton was also pushed back a week.

But the biggest casualty was England's friendly with the Netherlands at Wembley, due to have been played on Wednesday August 10.

A little more than a year later, another England game had to be pushed back when heavy rain in Warsaw flooded the pitch at Poland's national stadium ahead of their World Cup qualifier. And officials were left red-faced, because the £400 million arena has a roof…

5. Frosty times for the NHL

Here in the UK, routine postponements usually count for one or two fixtures being unfulfilled or, in extreme cases of treacherous weather, half of winter. However, imagine if a whole season went by without a single tie being played. Such was the case in the 2004-05 NHL campaign as, for the first time in North American sporting history, a major professional sports league cancelled an entire season due to a labour dispute.

The NHL is no stranger to a lockout - both the 1994-95 and 2011-12 seasons suffered a reduction to 48 games per team, with the former also largely down to disagreements over a proposed salary cap. However, the 2004-05 lockout resulted in the Stanley Cup not being awarded for the first time since 1919, when a Spanish flu pandemic forced the cancellation of the series.

The 04-05 lockout lasted 10 months and six days in total, before NHL owners and the NHL Players Association eventually ratified a new collective bargaining agreement on July 22; less than three months before the start of the 2005-06 season.

4. Baseball's World Series hit by quake

The World Series game between San Francisco and Oakland is hit by an earthquake © Getty Images

Twenty-five minutes before the start of Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's in front of 63,000 fans at Candlestick Park, the area was hit by the worst earthquake in the US since 1906.

The stadium held its own and no one was hurt - and when the rumbling eventually stopped, the crowd cheered and demanded the teams "Play Ball!" But power could not be restored inside the packed arena and officials had no choice but to postpone the first World Series game held at "The Stick" in 27 years.

Only when people started to leave the stadium did news filter round of the extent of the damage and the severe death toll.

The story made ESPN's 100 Most Memorable Moments of the Past 25 Years list - and you can read the full story here.

3. National outrage

Following the 1993 fiasco of what commentator Peter O'Sullevan described as "the greatest disaster in the history of the Grand National", where huge confusion at the starter's roster caused officials to declare the result of the race void, Europe's most valuable jump race was caught up in mass panic ahead of its 150th renewal in 1997.

A bomb threat was phoned through to two separate locations minutes before the scheduled race start at Aintree, leaving police with no option but to evacuate some 60,000 racegoers from the course. Over 20,000 people were left stranded in Liverpool as cars and coaches were locked inside the confines.

With hotels and guest houses full to the brim, local residents kindly opened their doors to provide emergency accommodation for the stranded while police carried out two controlled explosions at the course. The events prompted the tabloid headline "We'll fight them on the Becher's", in reference to Winston Churchill's famous war-time speech. On the following Monday, more than 48 hours after the race was meant to have run, Lord Gyllene won the 1997 Grand National in front of 20,000 people - the race still being referred to as the "Monday National" to this day.

2. A football medley...

The words 'football', 'fixture' and 'postponed' go together like Sonny and Cher. From old poo to avoiding mass illness, here are a selection of bizarre reasons that caused disruption to Britain's football calendar:

In February 1985, Sheffield United's Second Division tie with Oldham Athletic was called off after the discovery of an unexploded Second World War bomb was made near Bramhall Lane. The bomb was safely removed and the game was played three days later.

Between January 6 and February 21 1979, a Scottish Cup second round tie between Inverness and Falkirk fell foul to the icy winter no less than 29 times. At the 30th attempt on February 22, Falkirk scored four first-half goals to seal their place in the third round - where they lost 1-0 at Dundee just three days later.

Twenty nine postponements? Pah! Move over Inverness and Falkirk, for Airdrie's 1963 tussle with Stranraer set the benchmark some sixteen years earlier with 33 attempts of rescheduling following more shockingly Scottish weather. Airdrie eventually won 3-0 at the 34th time of asking.

Nothing tears a country apart like extreme bouts of disease, so it comes as no surprise that football was often sacrificed to prevent illness from spreading across large crowds. Matches at Blackburn were cancelled during the 1965-66 season due to a polio outbreak, while Middlesbrough's 1897-88 campaign was disrupted due to smallpox. We're waiting for the next epidemic of man-flu...

John Barnes' long-awaited Liverpool debut was delayed due to large amounts of Victorian poo - there's a sentence we never thought we'd have to write. In the 1987-88 season, an old Victorian sewer underneath the famous Kop end of Anfield gave way, causing the postponement of three Division One matches while the mess was cleaned up (sorry). It was worth the wait - Barnes eventually got his home debut, scored and went on to become one of Liverpool's greatest players.

1. Total Eclipse of the Match

But our award for the most bizarre postponement in history goes to Torquay United's League Cup first round fixture with Portsmouth at Plainmoor on Wednesday August 11, 1999.

The more astute among you will remember that date was the same as the first total eclipse of the sun since 1927.

Police in the Devon seaside town decided they did not have enough man power to cope with both the match and the influx of visitors to the area - with the South Devon area considered the best to witness the once-in-a-lifetime event. And after discovering that postponing the eclipse was a no-go, they decided to push the match back a week.

When it was eventually played, it was hardly worth the wait as it finished 0-0. Portsmouth eventually went through with a 3-0 win at Fratton Park.

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