I have recently seen a number of matches where prior to the start of the game heavy rain made the pitch pretty hard to play on. Interestingly some of these matches were postponed (e.g. recent qualifier between Poland - Englad) whereas some others did not (this weeks Champions League match between Galatasaray - Cluj).

In the second case it was pretty obvious that there would be absolutely no quality of football due to the conditions on the pitch due to erratic behavior of the ball on "grass" (terrible bounce, passes getting stuck on puddles, players sliding uncontrollably...)

Now that game reminded me of Euro 2008 match between Turkey and Austria, during which rain had made the game practically impossible for both teams and unexpected ball behavior caused a rather silly goal.

THat being the background, when the refs go out on the pitch to judge whether or not to start the game, what do they look for? Are there specific/descriptive criteria with which they take their decision?

2 Answers 2


Obviously when a referee is determining the quality of the pitch, the criteria is going to be different for a FIFA-type match versus a local league game.

The number one thing is player safety. EG) the field is wet & muddy, and players are just going to be slipping and sliding dangerously trying to tackle/run.

Standing water on the field is also dangerous. If the rain has stopped, and the field/stadium has excellent drainage, the referee may decide to play the game. This may or may not have been the case in the games you mentioned.

Of course, sending home 50 players & parents is no big deal compared to having to reschedule a FIFA/EPL/etc game with hundreds of staff, tens of thousands of fans, and millions of people wanting to watch at home. While none of that should be a factor, I would safely bet the farm that it most certainly is.

  • Thanks for your reply. I figured as much regarding the factors you mentioned but what I had in mind (which may not come across clearly in the question) is whether or not the refs have a predetermined set of criteria with somewhat of a quantitative/qualitative measure. I guess it's hard to quantitatively measure the risk on player safety, but the disparity between the recent examples led me to think that there are no predetermined, or officially regulated, criteria (in other words it's a judgement call on refs point of view).
    – posdef
    Oct 26, 2012 at 11:17
  • No, there is no real official criteria laid out. It's the above things I mentioned, in the opinion of the referee for that game. You could have a 9am game that the referee abandons, and a different referee comes along at 11am and sees the same field and deems it ok to play on. Like so many of the laws in football, it isn't black & white. Oct 27, 2012 at 14:21

For rain-related decisions of postponing a match, I refer to Ticky's answer, which I consider pretty accurate.

I would like to add that in the case of thick fog, the rule is that a match can be played (preferably with an orange ball) whenever the referee is able to see both goals from the center spot.

In the Netherlands, referees are advised to suspend a football match in the case of a storm, whenever the time between lightning and thunder is less then 10 seconds. (source (in Dutch))

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