Offside’s Christmas countdown: Sport in the snow

Sport in the snow, via welloffside.comand welloffside.photoshelter.com.

Mark Leech - Pontypool players dive on the ball in the snow at Bramley Road against Saracens.
Mark Leech – Pontypool players dive on the ball in the snow at Bramley Road against Saracens.

Besides competition and glory, sport is all about drama, and the weather conditions can play as big a part as any other element in ramping up the intrigue out on any pitch, track or venue.

L'Equipe - Fabian Cancellara battles through the snow and freezing temperatures during the first part of the race.
L’Equipe – Fabian Cancellara battles through the snow and freezing temperatures during the first part of the race.

For most people, the idea of dreaming of a white Christmas is all about the romance of snow on the ground, presents under the tree and perhaps even a roaring log fire to warm the cockles indoors.

Simon Stacpoole - A man blows fire on the snowy pitch at the Racecourse Ground.
Simon Stacpoole – A man blows fire on the snowy pitch at the Racecourse Ground.

Yet in a sporting context, snow can be the ultimate source of extra drama, especially down a camera lens.

Gerry Cranham - National Cyclocross Championships, Sutton Coldfield, 1977.
Gerry Cranham – National Cyclocross Championships, Sutton Coldfield, 1977.

The dazzling, novel background of whitened surroundings has the added effect of emphasising colours in a way that the usual green, green grass of turf or boggy brown mud can’t possibly hope to emulate.

Thrills and spills become far more likely on the entertainingly treacherous surface of a frosted up field, while collisions between protagonists tend to produce a satisfying  puff of white particles on contact.

Diving to place a try down over the line? You’ll create your own snowy furrow across the floor. Going for a tackle in the midst of a blizzard? Expect a picture-esque flurry to kick up in your wake.

Mark Leech - Paul Hinshelwood and Gary Briggs outjump Everton striker Adrian Heath in the snow at Goodison.
Mark Leech – Paul Hinshelwood and Gary Briggs outjump Everton striker Adrian Heath in the snow at Goodison.
Charlie Crowhurst - A general view of the South Stand at Worthing FC's Woodside Road stadium.
Charlie Crowhurst – A general view of the South Stand at Worthing FC’s Woodside Road stadium.

The stillness of ice and settled snow can even make sporting grounds look a touch more photogenic than usual. Undisturbed rows of seats look eerie or even beautiful when dusted with a layer of fresh powder.

Matt Roberts - The match between Newcastle Utd and Charlton Athletic is abandoned after snow hits St James' Park.
Matt Roberts – The match between Newcastle Utd and Charlton Athletic is abandoned after snow hits St James’ Park.
Simon Stacpoole - Snow on the red empty seats at the Britannia.
Simon Stacpoole – Snow on the red empty seats at the Britannia.

Stadiums and statues appear to shimmer under the varnish-like glaze of their mid-winter coatings of frozen water. Even when these buildings thaw out with the warm bodies of punters on a match day, the massed clouds of visible breaths that hang in the cold air, as well as the extra paraphernalia of thermal clothing, gloves and scarves in the crowds, adds extra details to already busy frames.

Simon Stacpoole - The statue of Sir Tom Finney outside Deepdale is frozen over with ice.
Simon Stacpoole – The statue of Sir Tom Finney outside Deepdale is frozen over with ice.

Obviously, snowfall isn’t limited to December or the festive period. It can come down at any time of the year, and often does in some locales, but due to its links to the idealised vision of Christmas, snowy sporting spectacles often tend to inspire connections and comparisons to the time of Santa Claus.

Mirrorpix - Wednesday goalkeeper Peter Springett stands in his penalty area as the snow falls down on Highbury.
Mirrorpix – Wednesday goalkeeper Peter Springett stands in his penalty area as the snow falls down on Highbury.
Mirrorpix - Sheffield Wednesday players discuss conditions at Highbury as referee E.T. Jennings considers abandoning the match.
Mirrorpix – Sheffield Wednesday players discuss conditions at Highbury as referee E.T. Jennings considers abandoning the match.

Paradoxically, there’s a certain warmth associated with such cold weather, even if its effects out on the pitch, be it in a game of rugby, football or other outdoor sports, can make the going harder. Who wants to be tackled down on the serrated ground of a frozen pitch?

While those out on the field have to get by with their standard issue uniforms and kits, the crowds in the stands are usually at least half-geared up to stave off a chill with a hot drink or two in hand.

Will there be snow in the world of UK sport this Christmas time? We’ll have to wait and see. If a frozen blanket does come to cover games this December though, be ready for an accompanying flurry of pictures capturing the best of the action up against the elements.

Mark Leech - Match postponed due to a huge snowball in the peanalty area.
Mark Leech – Match postponed due to a huge snowball in the penalty area.

Stay tuned for more blogs from Offside counting down the days until Christmas, and be sure to visit welloffside.comand welloffside.photoshelter.com for more information and access to our picture archives.

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Author: gregianjohnson

Football writer for The Blizzard, FourFourTwo, The Mirror, Squawka and VICE amongst others. Follow me on Twitter at @gregianjohnson.

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