Another winter weekend and another one where clubs are wondering whether they will be able to get their games on, due to snow or flooding resulting from snow and ice. All of this likely means that later on pundits and presenters alike will raise the old chestnut topic of a winter break. I’m not convinced about a winter break myself, whilst for clubs it’s a race to get games on and the permutations financially of not getting a game on at this time of year can be quite serious I don’t see a winter break as the answer.
As I write this article on my social networking page I can see appeals from seven clubs already asking for volunteers and Sky Sports News is already listing pitch inspections to take place so why am I against it? Well for starters when could you schedule it? It’s bad enough predicting the weather at the best of times, let alone narrowing it down to a two or three week window, the SPL have already had theirs and that fact may make some people’s eyebrows raise but yes, they had their two week break just recently and if you blinked it’s likely you may have missed it. Just because the FA Say it is likely to be cold and snow in a short window in January it doesn’t mean that it will. Then there are the financial implications, most clubs have monthly salaries to pay, lower down the league pyramid many clubs pay weekly fees plus expenses so that income generated by gate money is much needed and essential. As a fan and journalist I need my football fix too, that’s purely from a selfish perspective I hasten to add, many managers at this time of year also use the “fixture congestion” angle which is why Sir Alex Ferguson was so keen to get Manchester United’s away game at Spurs on last week.
So what can be done about it? Well having been involved in the game for nigh on 15 years now I have seen various ways and means to get around winter issues ranging from winter breaks to having volunteer armies ready at an emails notice to get down with shovels to clubs actually assuming games will be off and arranging Sportsmans dinners to guarantee income. Fixtures need to be scheduled throughout the season, that’s a must, in Scotland many clubs have installed 4G synthetic pitches which are playable after strong frosts and monsoons, they cannot fend off snow but they work and are also hard wearing and can be played on seven days a week generating income. Clubs like Stenhousemuir, Montrose, Airdrie and others already have them in up there and in other sports, even Rugby we are now seeing 3G and 4G pitches installed, Widnes Vikings have had one at the Halton Stadium for a couple of seasons and Saracens new ground, Allianz Park, is having one installed ready for its grand opening soon.
I am a traditionalist, I like my winter football and whilst the move of Rugby League to a summer sport seems to have done it some good I do not think moving it like the Irish League did will do it any favours either. When you see the pundits bringing up the subject of a winter break this weekend, take heed and consider the bigger picture, failing that, grab a shovel and get down to your local club today and give them a hand shifting the snow, they may even give you a cup of coffee and a thank you for your efforts and you will also get that warm feeling inside of what being a supporter of a club is all about.
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