THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

20 December ~ There are many issues in football that divide opinion, such as diving, goal-line technology and the best way of dealing with the financial instability of clubs. One topic that occurs on a near-seasonal basis is the winter break, especially in Scotland. This season, however, due to the arctic conditions and referees' strike, much of Scottish football has had to endure an involuntary winter shutdown all of its own. Celtic haven't played a match since their 2-2 draw against Inverness on November 27. Rangers' match against St Mirren was postponed on Saturday due to an indirect consequence of the cold weather which we can probably all relate to – burst pipes.

The problem with the weather in Scotland is not so much the stadiums (what happened at Ibrox on Saturday was a rare occurrence). With all SPL grounds required to have undersoil heating, the problem is getting there. Scotland is a geographically vast area and, despite the bulk of SPL clubs coming from the central region of the country, trips north to Aberdeen and Inverness in these conditions are near impossible.

It's interesting to see how different sports approach the idea of a winter break. I personally don't play football anymore, and the game's loss is one less average left-back. However I do play hockey (field, not ice). Hockey in Scotland takes a winter break between the end of November and beginning of February. Partly, this is to accommodate a league for its indoor equivalent, but also to avoid the postponing of matches due to frozen pitches. The team I play for, Glasgow University, have lost no matches to the weather so far this season, nor is it likely that we will.

Critics may suggest that the SHU (Scottish Hockey Union) can do this since there are fewer fixtures to fulfil. However this season I will be playing at the very least 34 times, not including any extra cup matches. Also, the hockey season does not begin until mid-September. National champions Kelburne had to play in the EHL (European Hockey League), not to mention the loss of weekends to the Commonwealth Games tournament in Delhi. It could easily be done in football.

Change to the SFA (Scottish Football Association) could be coming soon; former First Minister (and East Fife full-back) Henry McLeish's report on the state of the game, "Football's choice: facing the future", is, to put it politely, heavily critical. McLeish's report brands the SFA decades out of date and in need of modernisation. To fix this he recommends many alterations, such as starting the season a month earlier in July, a smaller premier division and regional leagues lower down the league pyramid. Another suggestion is to bring back the winter break – which Scotland had as recently as 2001. I won't be alone in hoping that these recommendations may be passed at the next board meeting in a few weeks time After all, nobody fancies Inverness away on a bleak Wednesday night in January. David Childs

Comments (5)
Comment by Dalef65 2010-12-20 17:16:58

Im not against a winter break per se,but the author here fails to explain why it would be good,or indeed bad for that matter,FOR FOOTBALL...

Comment by Broon 2010-12-21 10:07:58

the problem with scheduling a winter break is... scheduling. most people seem to suggest that January or February is where the break should be, but i don't think Scotland has ever had the kind of November we just had and this December is the worst for decades too. If we had this unplanned winter break followed by the planned winter break, we'd never get the season finished. as it is, most clubs are sitting out this few weeks of bad weather but we'll be able to work on the backlog in January or February, hopefully.

Comment by donedmundo 2010-12-21 12:02:00

We should have a winter break covering December January and February. We could start the season in May and finish it in June (13 months later). Teams could play six matches a week in the spring and autumn. Sounds just as sensible as all the other ideas.

Comment by Coral 2010-12-21 16:08:13

Couldn't we just have a flexible month then? Say we will have a month off in February. Then if we lose a game in December push it into February. Kind of have it as a buffer month and if no games are cancelled then February is the month off?

I am not advocating having a break, I am dead against it. Just proposing a workable solution.

Comment by madmickyf 2010-12-22 01:54:34

Why don't you move all Scottish games to Qatar for the months of December & January? They'll soon have a large number of underutilised stadiums, problem solved!

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