The day before Cork City beat Valur 2-0 in Reykjavik in 2007, Uefa’s man on the spot held a roundtable meeting with officials of both clubs to ensure all the boxes for the Intertoto Cup game had been ticked.
As hosts for the first leg, the lion’s share for the smooth running of the game belonged to Valur and, as the Uefa rep was at pains to make clear, he had done his homework on the workings of the national stadium where the game would be played.
Noting that, some years before, an international at the venue had been abandoned because of a floodlight failure, he sought an assurance from Valur that the same problem would not arise for the game against Cork.
As it turned out, the club official was in a perfect position to supply just such a guarantee. “If the light fails tomorrow,” he replied, “it will be a nuclear catastrophe.”
Sure enough, as I was to discover myself at the game following night, there was never even the remotest risk of a floodlight failure, for the very good reason that, in Reykjavik in June, they don’t require artificial lighting at all — the midnight sun blazing away merrily into the wee hours.
Still, Mr Uefa was only doing his job, and the higher up a club goes on the European football food chain, the more demanding are the governing body’s requirements, on and off the pitch, when it comes to staging a game.
Had Dundalk made it into the Champions League group stages, then in common with all the other participants in Europe’s premier club competition, they would have been in receipt from Uefa of a manual running to 155 pages which, as The New York Times reported this week, covers everything from the size of the club mascot (“only slightly larger than a normal person”) through the number of individual toilets in each dressing room (“three”) to the maximum dimensions of the sponsor’s logo on the goalkeeper’s gloves (“20 square centimetres”).
And having to do things by the hefty book means that Champions League newcomers Leicester City — who take their bow in the competition away to Club Brugge this evening — won’t be able to run riot with the lawnmower for their home games at the King Power.
Having won plaudits for his imaginative pitch designs last season, Leicester’s groundsman John Ledwidge will be compelled to take a much more conservative approach in the Champions League, the manual which must be obeyed instructing: “The height of the grass may not exceed 30mm. The grass should be cut in straight lines, across the width of the pitch, perpendicular to the touchline. No other form of grass cutting (diagonal, circles etc) is permitted.”
That’s big-time football for ya.
Not quite yet at the stage of the fabled Van Halen contract rider which stipulated that there should be no brown M&Ms in the dressing room sweet bowl — but getting there.
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