Finland 'bans' postponed football matches

Yellow and orange football on a snowy pitch Image copyright AFP
Image caption Finnish football authorities want to make snowed-off matches a thing of the past

Finland's football league is due to kick-off this weekend with stern advice from the local football authorities for clubs considering postponing matches because of the weather - don't.

According to Veikkausliiga chairman Matti Apunen, clubs that are unable get their pitches playable for published fixtures will need to find another venue "or lose home advantage", national broadcaster Yle reports.

Speaking at the league's annual pre-season press day, Mr Apunen said that postponements lead to a fixture pile-up at the end of every season, and the new rules exist to encourage teams to invest in modern stadiums with artificial pitches.

With the league already running on a tight schedule, he said there's little room for teams to finish their fixtures in time if winter postponements aren't eliminated.

Image copyright Wikimedia
Image caption The new rules mean that IFK Mariehamn might not be able to play all their home fixtures at their Wiklöf Holding Arena

Winter 'not quite finished'

This turn of events is extremely likely in the coming weeks, with winter "not quite finished with Finland yet", Yle says.

Home fixtures for Ilves, TPS Turku, FC Honka, and PS Kemi on their natural grass pitches seem particularly at risk, Iltalehti newspaper reports.

The new rules aren't proving popular with at least one club. Officials from IFK Mariehamn, based on Finland's south-western Åland Islands, tell Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper that the rule is "unfair" and may lead to them having to play HJK Helsinki three times at the current champions' ground.

IFK Mariehamn play on grass rather than an artificial pitch, and the club's Peter Mattsson says being forced to play matches on the mainland while the snow lingers means "we who live on an island will be guilty under the new regulations, and that will be wrong."

But Mr Apunen remains adamant, saying that playable stadiums are vital if Finland wants to reach the peak of international football.

Reporting by Alistair Coleman

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