At least 23 non-league football matches have been called off due to fuel shortages stopping staff members from being able to travel.
Petrol stations around the country have been running out of fuel, causing issues in a number of sectors, with one union urging the government to restrict pumps to key workers only, in order to ensure essential services are not interrupted.
Clubs in the Isthmian League – the third tier of non-league football – were told on Sunday they would be permitted to cancel their upcoming games if fuel shortages meant they could not staff the fixtures.
Lewes Football Club was among the first to cancel, saying it was forced to postpone its match against Carshalton Athletic FC, with “players, coaches, officials and supporters” unable to attend because they could not refuel their vehicles.
And Dereham Town cancelled its match against Bury Town FC because staff and “current fuel issues” meant the club was “unable to get enough club officials and volunteers to the ground in order to stage the game safely”.
In a tweet, Lewes FC wrote: “Owing the the national fuel shortage and the difficulty for players, coaches, officials and supporters to attend the game, tomorrow’s fixture against Carshalton AFC has been postponed.
“We will advertise the new fixture date in due course.”
Carshalton Athletic FC said it was “disappointed” by the decision to postpone and urged Lewes to refund tickets “automatically and without delay”.
Bury Town FC said it was informed by the Isthmian League, in which it competes, “that should any club wish to postpone their fixtures could do so due to the current fuel issues”.
So far 23 semi-pro matches in the third tier of non-league football have been cancelled – a full list can be found here.
A number of games are still scheduled to go ahead this week, however that could change.
It comes as the government insisted there was no shortage of fuel and supply issues at petrol stations were only being caused by people panic buying – despite fuel suppliers saying they were facing distribution issues caused by a lack of HGV drivers.
Environment Secretary George Eustice denied HGV driver shortages were the main cause of the problem, rejected calls for soldiers to be called in to drive petrol tankers and said people should stop panic buying.
“The most important thing is that people buy petrol as they normally would. There isn’t a shortage. There have been some shortages of HGV drivers getting petrol to forecourts but actually that is quite limited,” he told broadcasters.
Asked about reports of the army being drafted in to reduce the shortage of drivers, Mr Eustice said there are “no plans at the moment” to use the Army to drive petrol tankers.
He suggested things will return to normal if people stop panic buying, but union Unison has called on the government to “designate fuel stations for the sole use of key workers” to ensure essential services are not interrupted.
The union said: “Ambulance crews, nurses, care workers, teaching assistants, police staff and other key workers mustn’t be left stranded or forced to queue for hours simply to get to a pump.
“The government could solve this problem now by using emergency powers to designate fuel stations for the sole use of key workers.”