£2 Voucher for fans but £10,000 Bill for the Albion!

Last updated : 07 January 2003 By Bob Gear
Story from EDP 24

The double power failure that blacked out Carrow Road has left Norwich City and their FA Cup opponents Brighton with another nasty shock – a half-share of a £20,000 bill for the debacle.

Supporters of the two teams travelled to Carrow Road on Saturday only to see their third round match postponed.

But despite being the totally innocent party, it seems the Seagulls who like the Canaries have had financial problems in recent years – the club has a temporary ground and is suitably sponsored by record label Skint – may have to pick up half the total bill.

The blow is particularly bitter for the Brighton fans, who braved snowy conditions on a 155-mile trip to Norwich.

One fan, former council leader and government whip Lord Bassam said: “This has not been very clever. A lot of people are very frustrated after having driven through show to get to Norwich.”

Brighton columnist Ian Hart said: “This has been a complete pantomime. I almost expected Timmy Mallett to appear on the pitch.”

Last night, Norwich City's chief executive Neil Doncaster said the Canaries were insured for disruption to business by “acts of God” and were currently investigating whether they were able to make a claim. “There would be a substantial excess to pay on any claim, which may prove to be more than the actual costs, but we are investigating whether we are covered,” he said.

A “very ballpark figure” over the cost of Saturday's postponement was around £20,000 – and he expected Brighton would have to pay half.

“FA rules say that if it is the fault of one club they carry the burden but if it was just something that happened the costs are split, which is what happen here. This was just one of those things,” Mr Doncaster added.

Overloading the mains has emerged as the cause of the initial problem.

It is believed to be the only time in the history of the ground the main circuit breaker has tripped-out.

A back up generator should then have simply kicked in, providing power, but that had a faulty control panel leaving the ground, and thousands of fans, literally in the dark.

It was 2.31pm, half an hour before the scheduled kick-off time, when all mains power to the stadium was lost.

The failure of the emergency back-up generator meant the whole ground was without power until 2.57pm, when mains power was restored.

But under the club's general safety certificate, issued by Norfolk County Council, the club could not start the fixture without both mains power and a back-up power source being available.

So much to the disappointment of both sets of fans and players, the match was postponed.

Marjorie Macfarlane, spokeswoman for power company 24seven said: “It was an internal problem. One of our engineers was at the match and a technician on site checked the supply to the club which was found to be on and working.

“The supply was checked within ten minutes and it was all working fine. The supply to Norwich City was working so it must have been an internal problem at the ground.”

A statement issued by the Canaries yesterday said: “Following extensive consultation with the emergency services, match officials and the managers of both clubs, and following our electrical consultants' view that the emergency back-up generator could not be repaired on the day, the club's safety officer took the only option available to him – to postpone the game.

“This decision, together with arrangements for the re-arranged fixture, was communicated over the club's PA system at 3.37pm.”

The statement said the “unforeseen overloading” was due to a “unique set of circumstances on the day”.

“The stadium under-soil heating was running at full power prior to the game to cope with both the overnight frost and the freshly falling snow; the floodlights were on; all areas throughout the stadium were being heated at maximum power; all other electrical appliances around the ground were in use,” it read.

Last night, the club said to prevent this from happening in the future, an enhanced monitoring system had now been put in place.

This would allow the club's electrical consultants to monitor the power levels throughout the ground, minute by minute.

“We have now been given revised recommended maximum electrical loadings for the stadium. In the event that these levels are approached in future fixtures, our electrical consultants will off-load the excess ampage in non-essential areas. This will not compromise the safety of our supporters,” a club spokesman said.

Neil Doncaster last night thanked fans and ensured the faithful everything had been done to get the match on.

“We would like to thank all supporters of both clubs for their patience and understanding last Saturday,” he said.

“We did absolutely everything possible to try and ensure that the fixture went ahead. Everybody at the Club, players, management and staff alike, shared the supporters' frustration that the game could not go ahead.

“However, safety considerations are paramount and the decision to postpone was the only possible one in the circumstances.”

Last night the Canaries offered all home supporters who attended the postponed match the opportunity to travel with the club's official away coach travel service to any league match of their choice this season for £5, subject to ticket availability.

All Brighton supporters travelling by coach last Saturday have had their travel costs refunded by the coach company's insurance policy.

But Norwich will be handing out refreshment vouchers to the value of £2 to every away supporter next Tuesday.

Tickets remain available for sale for the re-arranged fixture.

In the event that the re-arranged fixture on Tuesday 14 January is drawn, the replay at the Withdean Stadium, Brighton, should take place on Tuesday 21 January at 7.45pm.