Ash clouds sporting picture

Volcano in Iceland disrupts events from Manchester derby to Chinese Grand Prix.

    The referee for the Manchester derby was stranded in Romania [AFP]

    From the Manchester football derby to the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai, sport has felt the fallout from the cloud of volcanic ash hanging over northern and central Europe.

    The closure of airports across Britain for the third successive day on Saturday, causing travel chaos and leaving passengers stranded around the world, brought some controversy to the Premier League's headline clash between Manchester City and United at Eastlands.

    Referee Steve Bennett had to be replaced when he was unable to get back from Romania where he was overseeing a course for match officials.

    His replacement Martin Atkinson was hardly City's favourite after he refereed their 4-3 league defeat at Old Trafford in September, with United's Michael Owen grabbing a 96th-minute winner after the official had awarded just four minutes of extra time.

    Another red, Liverpool's injured striker Fernando Torres, was in limbo after being unable to get the all-clear to play from a specialist in his native Spain.

    "He needs to see the specialist...he knows his knee really well," said manager Rafael Benitez when asked whether Torres might play at home to West Ham United on Monday.

    "We have to wait. He is working in the gym and we will see."

    Race to the race

    Formula One felt the effect, with members of the McLaren team staging a last-minute dash from London to Paris to get themselves and potentially vital spare parts on to one of the last flights out before the shutdown on Thursday.

    "We have got a few people who were going to be latecomers who won't be here now but we've got everything we need to perform this weekend," team boss Martin Whitmarsh said.

    Getting the personnel and equipment back after Sunday's race could prove more complicated although the sport is nothing if not resourceful.

    "The great thing about Formula One is it is hugely adaptable, they'll sort it out," former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan, grounded in London and unable to travel to Shanghai to carry out his role as BBC television pundit, told Reuters.

    "The freight I can't see coming back to the UK. I think they will probably go straight to Barcelona and the trucks will leave from here as usual.

    "Fortunately we've got a whole heap of time before the next flyaway (race)."

    The next grand prix after China is the Spanish race in Barcelona on May 9 followed by Monaco and then Turkey – all races where the cars and freight are transported by road or ferry boat.

    The Canadian Grand Prix, in Montreal on June 13, is the sport's next long-haul destination.

    Manchester's other red team, Salford City rugby league club, were having to travel by coach to Perpignan in the south of France for a cup match on Sunday.

    "It's certainly not our preferred method but the game has to be played," head coach Shaun McRae told the club website.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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