Seasonal Disorder: Summer Soccer in Scotland?

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A summer season for Scotland? John Boyle, chairman of Motherwell, raised the prospect once again as he advocated a switch to a summer season and a long winter break.

This adds to the support for the move from Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, and Gordon Smith, the SFA chief executive, but Boyle was far more assertive in making the economic argument for the move — saying “To be candid, I think the financial case for summer football has overrun the football case.”

Boyle went to explain the need to make football more attractive with more games in better weather.

The history of the structure, trying to play at the same time as other countries, is the only reason we play when we do. But we are situated in northern Europe. We are not Spain and we are not Italy. But, purely from a fans’ point of view, you cannot argue with the fact that a game is a far more enjoyable experience, and you are far more likely to attend, on a balmy summer or spring evening than to go out when it is snowing and windy.

“It is a no brainer. Tomorrow night will be a perfect example.

There will probably be an extra 1500 people who come along because it is a nice evening. If the game was played in December, I can assure you there would be 1500 less. Sometimes I find it difficult, on a wet Wednesday night in the winter, to get out of my house to go and watch a game. What must the fans think?

SFA chief Gordon Smith’s argument was focused on the playing conditions, as he said that “Better conditions mean better football.”

Scotland has tried a winter break before, stopping play during January from 1998-2003. But this halfway house didn’t succeed, with fixture congestion piling up by the end of the season.

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Less keen on a change are Celtic, with manager Tony Mowbray saying he was a traditionalist — “I prefer playing games under floodlights with an atmosphere in the stadium. We’ve been doing it for 120 odd years so I don’t see any reason to change.” (Umm, I don’t think Celtic have been playing under floodlights for 120 years, Tony).

For Celtic, who already have no problems filling their stadium through the winter, summer football makes less sense economically — especially as it would interfere with their increasingly lucrative summer friendlies schedule, such as Celtic’s recent participation in the Wembley Cup.

Still, on the other side of Glasgow, Rangers manager Walter Smith has been touting a rationale that would even benefit the Old Firm — an earlier start would see Scottish clubs better prepared for European football’s summer preliminaries and perhaps prevent the kind of humilation Motherwell suffered this week. Motherwell’s 6-1 aggregate defeat by Steau Bucharest in the Europa League prompted manager Jim Gannon to say that his players were “not match-fit”.

Smith, suggesting a June kickoff, said that “If this is helpful to any of the clubs playing in Europe then it’s something we should consider seriously. Over the next few years even the champions and the second placed teams will have to play earlier in the season and if this could help them – and help our coefficient – then it would be a good thing.”

Summer football has of course been a success (and something of a necessity) elsewhere in Europe, such as Norway, and the Football Association’s proposed Women’s Super League is to take place over the summer (though its start has been postponed to 2011). What would you think about Scotland following suit?

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