The vast majority of sports are played outdoors. The problem with this is that it leaves them open to the elements, meaning that all sorts of things can effect them, depending on the sport in question. When Qatar was chosen to host the World Cup in 2022, for example, one of the first questions became about the extreme heat. The entire tournament was moved from the summer to the winter, whilst the stadiums where the matches would be played needed to have state-of-the-art air conditioning units installed for the comfort of both players and supporters.
One of the most influential weather factors is rain, which can make surfaces slippy and visibility limited. Surprisingly, some of the sports that you’d imagine might well end up being called off for rain, such as the Formula One, will still go ahead even if it is raining really heavily. Cricket, on the other hand, grinds to a halt once the rain comes. The same is true of tennis, as Wimbledon-lovers will have grown all too used to over the years of rain delays and Cliff Richard singing on Centre Court. Which sports can’t handle the wet and why?
Could Players Be Injured?
The most obvious reason for stopping a sport being played in certain conditions is if a player is liable to suffer an injury as a result. Whilst this is ignored in sports like football and rugby, which are contact sports and therefore rain shouldn’t make too much of a difference, it does become very relevant in non-contact sports. The obvious example of a sport that stops in the rain is cricket. Cricket is very much a non-contact sport, with an entire test able to take place without any of the players every touching each other.
Because the batsmen run from one end of the pitch to another and the fielding team needs to run around the ground trying to catch the ball or stop it from crossing the boundary line, rain can make the area of play extremely dangerous. Water on the grass makes it slicker, meaning that going over on ankles is not out of the realms of the possible, for example. Even just trying to see the ball can be made much harder in rain, with injury from a ball flying though the air a genuine possibility that the organisers have to think about seriously.
Golf is generally able to carry on being played if it rains, with players simply donning their waterproof clothing and covering their clubs with an umbrella. Where it becomes more dangerous, though, is when lightning looks as though it is going to accompany the rain. In such instances, players are brought back into the clubhouse with play resuming once the associated storm has passed. In this instance, of course, it isn’t actually the rain that has stopped play as much as it is the possibility of being electrocuted by lightning.
Damage To The Ground
Another major problem with cricket, which is shared by baseball, is that rain can do major damage to the surface that the sport is played on. With baseball, that is the infield, which is covered with a large tarp when the rain begins to fall. For cricket, that is the pitch with the wicket on, which also tends to get covered during rain delays. In terms of tennis, the court also gets covered with a tarpaulin both in order to protect it and also to stop it becoming too slippy. Grass and moisture is a recipe for slippiness, which needs to be avoided.
In a sport such as the F1, the ground isn’t going to be damaged by even the most severe weather, whilst football pitches have decent drainage to ensure that any rain won’t have too much of an impact on the playing surface. The same sort of thing us true of rugby pitches, which are already usually quite muddy and cut up. Sports such as tennis and cricket depend on an excellent surface, so any likely muddiness due to players running over the ground after it has rained will do it irreparable damage that needs to be avoided.
Influence Over Equipment
In some sports, such as rugby and football, the ball used for play won’t be affected by rain. The equipment used nowadays is such that they are basically waterproof, allowing the game to carry on without the rain having much of an influence on proceedings. In the Formula One, there are different tyres that can be used in order to allow the drivers to be much safer in the rain, even if cars coming off the tracks or crashing are fairly common occurrences. Choices can be made to allow things to carry on, even if it’s raining heavily.
The same cannot be said for other sports, in which the equipment can often be compromised as a result of rain falling. In tennis, baseball and cricket, for example, the ball can become heavier and even change colour as a result of rainfall. Tennis rackets, baseball bats and cricket bats can be much harder to hold when the handle is slippy, so a player could miss their shot as a result. It is the sort of thing that has to be taken into account when organisers are trying to decide whether or not to allow a game to carry on as rainfall comes.
Can It Be Played Indoors?
Of all of the sports that we’ve mentioned suffering from rain delays, tennis is really the only one that can effectively be ‘moved indoors’ when the rain comes. This is possible thanks to the courts at some of the biggest tennis venues around the world having retractable roofs over them. At Wimbledon, for example, both Centre Court and Number One Court have roofs that can be moved over to cover the playing surface if it starts to rain. The only downside is that it can take about 20 minutes or so for this to happen and for the indoor climate to return to normal.
Both cricket and baseball take place on areas that are far too big to be covered by a retractable roof. As a result, both sports are subject to the possible delays that occur as a result of the weather becoming inclement. Though the likes of indoor cricket has been trialled at various points, it just doesn’t work in a way that would be recognised as such by the fans that love the game. Consequently, neither of those games can be moved indoors and proceedings are called to a halt for the best of all concerned.