It’s fair to say that Scottish Football isn’t in the best of places just now. It’s over thirty years since a Scottish team won in Europe. Almost twenty years since the national side qualified for a major finals. There are many reasons for this. I don’t have enough digits to start finger-pointing at those responsible. However, I believe there is one major change that should be implemented which would give Scottish Football a chance at a revival... summer football.
Traditionalists will baulk at the idea and will have probably already stopped reading this. But if they are willing to hear me out, I believe the pros of a seasonal shift, would out-weigh the cons.
Scottish football currently has a TV deal whereby both Sky and BT Sport show live matches. The BBC also have a highlights show. Live coverage can be found on Friday evenings or weekend lunchtime. The Saturday and Sunday lunchtime kick offs are often up against live English Premier League games. Championship and European Leagues usually provide an alternate Friday night option. If the move was made to summer matches there would be a minimum six-week period where there was no competition. Scottish Premiership would be front and centre of UK television coverage. Bringing new eyes to the league and preventing a total EPL take over, which has undoubtedly stunted our games growth. Also fans could enjoy more ‘traditional’ kick off times without being bound by broadcast rules of when matches can be shown.
Scottish weather isn’t an exact science. Surely it’s madness though, to stop playing over the best two months of the year, weather wise, whilst playing over the whole winter. I cannot think of many people who would rather sit freezing their Mitre Deltas off in sub-zero December than on a warm summers day. It would make the overall experience of going to a match far more enjoyable for all concerned. Adding to the appeal of actually going to games makes it easier to attract new fans and grow the game. It would also help the pitches not being constantly frozen and flooded. Surfaces don’t cope well with the use of under-soil heating. I’m sure better playing surfaces wouldn’t be a bad thing? Even reduced use of floodlights in lighter summer months would provide a saving to smaller teams already bound by financial restraints.
An awful word for an awful premise. As flawed as it is complicated the UEFA coefficient dictates the seeding of teams for European competition. So low is Scotland’s seeding that Aberdeen have beaten three sides seeded above them in the last two seasons, yet they still failed to make even the first round of the Europa League. Starting a European campaign in June means qualifying rounds replace pre-season games. It is impossible to be firing on all cylinders at that stage having just returned from a shortened summer break. If the league played over summer however, these qualifiers would arrive mid-season, giving sides at least a grounding on which to build. Is there any other way of providing sides with such a competitive advantage?
Obviously there would be difficulties and constraints in implementing a move to summer football. Clashing with World Cup and European Championship every two years being one issue. There could be an argument for the number of 'new fans' attracted being off-set by those missing games whilst away on summer vacations. The mechanics of the moving process wouldn’t be easy, not impossible however. There will be those who won’t want to change because of 'tradition', those who want to keep it how it is because it has always been that way. Refusing to accept that change is required will undoubtedly be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.
Sweden, Norway and Republic of Ireland all play summer football. All have qualified for at least one World Cup or European Championship since Scotland were last there. For me, to continue the way we are going is pointless. The financial disparity between the sides in the league doesn’t help the competitiveness. That could/should be addressed somehow. But it's the change to summer football which, for me, would bring about an obvious positive change. It may be seen as a gamble but sticking with the status quo is getting us nowhere.
Scottish Football is of a much better level than it often gets credit for. It has historic, storied clubs with passionate fans. It regularly attracts more fans through the gate per head of population than the rest of Europe’s top leagues.
A freshen up is required though and a switch to summer football seems to me, to be staring us in the face as a great opportunity. Scotland is currently heading further into the footballing wilderness. Until attempts are made to arrest the slide, I fear the game in this country may never recover.