Officials of Hull FC and the Rugby Football League claimed they had no alternative but to call off last night’s Super League game with Bradford after motorway chaos left the home side short of players.
An accident on the M62 initially delayed the Bulls coach and despite having to detour on the A19 they were able to reach the ground half an hour before the scheduled 8pm kick-off.
But with nine Hull players who were travelling from their homes in West Yorkshire unable to make it to the ground before the latest allowed kick-off time of 9.15pm it was decided to move the game back to a 3pm start tomorrow.
Hull head of communication, media and marketing James Clark said: “The match has had to be postponed. The reason for that is that there has been a serious collision on the M62.
“The accident involves an oil tanker that contains an unknown substance and that is why the police have had to shut the M62, the nature of the substance means no traffic can pass.
“It did affect the Bradford team coach and they were stuck for over an hour. Unfortunately we have nine players that live in West Yorkshire and they were travelling across. It was a number that does affect whether we can field a team or not.”
Hull had first looked to delay the kick-off and also considered playing the game today.
“We looked at a delayed kick-off, possibly even (today), but we had to take into account that this is a joint use stadium. We thought 3pm on Sunday afternoon was the best bet,” added Clark.
The RFL’s match commissioner for the game Dave Asquith had no hesitation in postponing the Super League round two fixture.
“We tried everything humanly possible but when players are stuck unfortunately we couldn’t accommodate that,” said Asquith.
Bradford football manager Stuart Duffy admitted that in his 15 years in rugby league he had never gone through anything similar.
Duffy said: “Fifteen years I’ve been involved with Bradford Bulls, and I’ve never had to divert off the motorway on the way to a game.
“Fortunately we were before the A19 (exit and could divert).
“Realistically eight or nine of their players weren’t going to get here before 9.15pm which is the last time the game could have kicked off.
“At the end of the day we can’t expect Hull to put a load of kids in because it’s an important competition.
“We could have played it (today) but it would have been an early kick-off and we would have got back late (last night).
“It’s better for everybody concerned that the game is played on Sunday, and we’ll travel across on Sunday morning.”
A Hull FC statement read: “The club would like to apologise for any inconvenience that tonight’s fixture has caused for supporters of both Hull FC and Bradford Bulls.
“A serious accident occurred on the M62 at approximately 4.45pm meaning the road was completely closed.
“This caused delay for the travelling match officials and the Bradford team coach, who both arrived late for the match.
“The closure between junctions 34 and 35 also meant that travelling Hull FC players, match officials, regional media, Bradford Bulls staff and the official Bradford Bulls supporters’ coaches were stuck between both junctions and couldn’t exit the motorway.
“Hull FC, Bradford Bulls and the RFL were in regular dialogue ahead of the proposed kick-off time and an initial delay was confirmed to provide the best possible opportunity to ensure the game could go ahead.
“However, after confirmation of the road closure and that those parties that were delayed were unable to move from the motorway, all parties agreed that the game should be postponed.
“The decision was ultimately made with the best interests of the supporters in mind, with neither club nor the RFL willing to make supporters wait any longer without any definitive suggestion as to whether the game would be able to go ahead on Friday evening.
“Both teams’ head coaches were involved in the decision making process and keen to stress that the match should go ahead as a fair contest played at the right time with full squads available, with ultimately the best interests of rugby league at heart.
Normal match-day ticketing procedures will apply for tomorrow’s match.
The ticket office and cash turnstiles will be in operation on the day of the game.
Refunds for tickets will be honoured from Monday, February 11 to Saturday, February 18.
England international Gareth Ellis says missing out on making his Hull debut last Friday was “probably my lowest-ever point”.
The newly-appointed Black and Whites captain was set to make his eagerly-awaited return to Super League at his old club Leeds but was forced to pull out of the match after hurting his foot in the warm-up.
The 31-year-old, who is still awaiting the result of scans to determine the extent of the injury, has spoken about the disappointment for the first time.
“It went from being one of the highlights of my career to probably being my lowest-ever point in the space of a couple of minutes,” he said.
“I was really looking forward to leading the team for the first time as being the captain is a huge honour for me and I just wanted to go out there and try to live up to the expectation.
“My first thought was that I was letting everybody down. I had a real mix of emotions going through me and I’m really disappointed. It wasn’t the way I wanted to start off at the club.”