UPDATED: Ipswich Town's Championship fixture with Norwich City at Portman Road could be moved again
Copyright Ashley Pickering
Ipswich Town's home clash with Norwich City which has been put back a day to Sunday August 24, could still be played on the original August 23 date set by the Football League.
As we reported last week, Suffolk Constabulary had made a request for all future derby games to be played on a Sunday lunchtime, to minimise potential disruption, following recommendations from a report of the last Portman Road derby game between the two teams in 2011.
However, Network Rail has scheduled track renewals in the Ipswich area, with buses replacing trains between Colchester, Manningtree, Ipswich and Stowmarket from the start of service and there will also be overhead line renewals taking place between Ilford and Shenfield, with buses replacing trains between Shenfield and Ilford until 8am on the Sunday.
The game is currently scheduled to kick-off at Noon on the Sunday but that could be altered to 1pm should Sky Television choose to televise the clash.
However, a meeting is taking place tomorrow between the two clubs as well as members of the respective councils and police force to discuss the kick-off time as well as the potential transport problems that could ensue. As a result, a decision could still be made to play the game on the Saturday at an earlier time.
Town’s visit to Carrow Road on Saturday, February 28 has been brought forward to a 2pm kick-off.
Town boss Mick McCarthy is relishing the match-up at Portman Road but said it was unfortunate that game would have to be switched for safety reasons.
“We have got two of the teams that were relegated from the Premier League in our first four games, like last season, so they are big games for us,” said McCarthy.
“I think it’s dictated by other forces, generally the police force – not me and not the clubs – I would love to see it played on a Saturday, I don’t know why we couldn’t play it early on a Saturday, but you can’t do that if there is going to be problems with it.
“I hope there aren’t problems. All the derbies I have been involved in are big games and unfortunately they do sometimes provoke a bit of bother.
“We don’t want that, we just want a good game of football.”
Ipswich Town Supporters Club chairman, Liz Edwards, added: “It is a great pity that these games now always seem to have to be on a Sunday lunchtime which makes it very difficult for fans, for example, those travelling long distances and for those impacted by planned disruptions on the trainlines.
“There was a brave attempt last time to move away from a Sunday and I was surprised that an evening before a bank holiday weekend was chosen for the experiment.
“The authorities have cited that there were a lot of problems both before and after that game and no doubt this has impacted the decision this season.
“As most fans, I would far rather games kick off at 3pm on Saturday.”
A Network Rail spokesman said engineering works would not be moved.
“As part of our ongoing investment to improve the railway we are replacing the track in the Ipswich area on Sunday, August 24,” the spokesman said.
“This work involves specialist engineers and equipment and was planned months in advance and before any football fixtures had been set.
“As a result of the work, there will be changes to services so we advise passengers who are travelling on that day to check with Abellio Greater Anglia or the National Rail Enquiries website.”
A spokesman for train operator Greater Anglia said the firm would be in contact with Norwich City and the police about how to offer the “best possible service.”