15 January ~ The floodlights were on last Tuesday at Cantilever Park – home of Unibond Division One North side Warrington Town. However the players were not carrying out their usual pre-match warm-up. Instead, armed with wheelbarrows and shovels, they were attempting to make the pitch playable for the first time in five weeks. Despite their best efforts, and those of 20 or so volunteers, this Saturday's game against Halifax has been called off with more inclement weather forecast for the weekend. It's a similar story throughout the country and as a result of postponements many non-League clubs are facing the prospect of a month with no revenue from gate receipts. Commendably the Blue Square Premier have brought their funding payments forward to help clubs through the difficult financial period.

After the recent cold snap Sir Alex Ferguson suggested that a winter break would be beneficial for Premier League clubs. A knee-jerk reaction perhaps, with top flight games rarely affected by the weather and a mid-season break also conflicting with the international calendar. However, the non-League fixture list is severely disrupted year on year with clubs unable to rely on a large army of full time groundstaff or state of the art undersoil heating. Instead of wasting efforts in a losing battle against the elements, some are wondering if non-League football could be converted into a summer sport. The outgoing Chester City manager Jim Harvey recently offered his assessment of the attempts to get matches on during Britain's coldest winter for 30 years: "Playing football in the current conditions that we're experiencing is nonsense, he told the BBC. "Summer football is the obvious way to go. The pluses it brings are immense."

A club like Warrington Town, for example, are competing with six Premier League clubs within a 30 mile radius. If their matches were played during the summer attendances and revenue would increase substantially. Admittedly non-League teams would be in competition with the established summer sports but they would not provide anything like the obstacle presented by the media monster that is the Premier League.

The idea of moving the non-League fixture list to the spring/summer months has two potential stumbling blocks: the reluctance of clubs to waive their participation in the FA Cup and the logistics of a club being promoted to (or relegated from) a division in the regular football calendar. The FA Cup conundrum could be best solved by beginning the preliminary rounds earlier in the year with the first round proper played during the first weeks of the regular football season, providing a grand finale to the campaign for those non-League clubs who have made it that far.

If the non-League season begins in February, playing two games a week, and with very few or any postponements, the League season could be finished by mid-July giving those promoted a six-week break before the regular season starts. There is no denying the two clubs would be at a severe disadvantage the following campaign. However this could be offset by a bonus payment paid by the Conference out of the increased revenue generated from moving to a summer fixture list. The logistical problems facing two clubs each season would be overridden by the total benefit to the non-League football pyramid as a whole. Such a wholescale reform is unlikely to happen in the near future but at a time when some clubs are looking at nearly two months without football, it should at least be given due consideration. Steven Quick

Comments (8)
Comment by MarcB 2010-01-15 14:31:35

They moved my beloved Rugby League to the summer and i've never enjoyed it as much, it's a bleak, northern hardman's sport and always should be. The only thing that keeps you sane at this insufferable time of year is the football, imagine being snowed in, freezing cold with only Songs of twatting praise to look forward too!

Comment by GarySkent 2010-01-15 16:15:47

Seeing as Warrington Town are mentioned in this article, I thought I'd better have my say as Chief executive of the club.
I would be totally opposed to a move to summer non league soccer, especially here in Warrington where it would conflict with our summer rugby playing Warrington Wolves.
When we don't play we don't have to pay our players and we have a successful social club generating on going revenue as well as our rent money from phone masts and the support of our sponsors.
Our gates are always down in August and September when the season starts as many people are on their summer holidays.
May be worth considering a winter break for the month of January and extend the season to end of May.
I think that may be the ideal solution.

Comment by Dalef65 2010-01-15 18:25:21

Where does the author of this article get the idea that playing non league games in the summer would "substantially" increase attendance?
A few more might go to these games, but doesnt he know that masses of people go on holiday during the summer months,and this would negate any increase in gates?
Also the premier league factor is virtually irrelevant,non league fans watch the non league game,because of what it is.The presence(or absence)of any premier league clubs in the vicinity is hardly going to make any difference.I cant see the prawn sandwich brigade making the trip to Unibond North Division 1 grounds in June and July,simply because Man Utd arent playing.
And what about the clash with International games on TV when the world cup and euros are on every other year.....?
He then goes on to totally shoot himself in the foot,by saying that the season that he proposes would be a mere 6 months in length(feb to july).
How would you fit in a full length league programme,including play offs,FA Vase/Trophy or whatever(not forgetting replays)and then find the time to play prelim rounds of the FA cup ?
Two games a week? Try four.......!
How does this sort of stuff get on here......??????

Comment by Glen Rogers 2010-01-15 22:57:47

Sorry but this article is nonsense. Where is there evidence that summer football at this level will generate additional income for the clubs involved? The League of Ireland?

Comment by Grimmer 2010-01-16 09:13:41

Yeah ... sorry to say that I have to agree that the above is nonsense for all sorts of reasons already mentioned.

As well as these a move to "summer" football starting in February would have no guarantee of avoiding adverse weather conditions. Just because the weather has been bad in December and January this time doesn't mean that next time it'll hit at the same time of year. In fact the actual summer months in this country aren't always perfect - the severe flooding the other year was smack bang in the middle of June/July wasn't it?

Comment by enzee199 2010-01-16 17:38:08

It's certainly something worth considering. I tend to prefer non-league football in August. I agree there is something romantic about an icy chill and cup of Bovril but a cup of tea on a late summer afternoon is a close second. Bringing up the rear is, current extreme weather aside, the rain. In non-league this means waterlogged pitch postponments and grounds offering little in the way of shelter. Maybe we should ditch the romanticism for pragmatism.

Comment by madmickyf 2010-01-17 03:36:48

And what do Non-League fans do during the winter, go and support their local Premiershite team? Yes, I'm sure that's what the Premier League would like them to do.

This article seems to be an over drastic reaction to a rare spell of very cold weather, if every English winter was like this fair enough but this is an exception rather than the norm.

Comment by Jongudmund 2010-01-18 13:25:55

This is utter, utter twaddle. There are so many assumptions here (e.g. people will go see summer football in the six weeks or so between seasons) to make it laughable. Also that non-league teams are out of the FA Cup by the first round. Doesn't always happen. Plenty of non-league teams below the Conference seem have progressed at Shrewsbury's expense in the past couple of years.

But the real problem is that it will break up the pyramid. Non-league football will be out of sync with the higher leagues and that will hamstring clubs seeking to progress. You will effectively be creating a second, minor sport, "amateur football".

Also, if gate reciepts are so vital what are clubs going to do in the six months between July and February? A half year season is going to damage them more don't you think?

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