|Summer football sounds good, but this is what Scotland looks like in June|
Sigh...can the postseason ever go by anymore without the subjects of summer football and winter breaks being brought up?
The former felt like a story created by BBC Scotland, who asked clubs whether they "would be interested" in the idea of playing in the summer. Replying "we would think about it" is not akin to OVERWHELMING SUPPORT, whatever the Beeb's spin might suggest. But perhaps they should be given credit for at least doing some work themselves, rather than just regurgitating the latest press releases from the new Rangers board like they do most of the time.
Not that I have anything much against summer football, but it's probably a non-starter for both bigger and smaller clubs. If elite teams still strive to have international players, losing them for weeks on end during World Cup/European Championship summers would be intolerable. Meanwhile, a few part-time clubs raised the issue of whether players would be willing to give up on a summer holiday with the family to play for little more than expenses. And some of the rain recently in the Highlands (in bloody June!) would have forced weather-related postponements anyway.
As for a winter stoppage, it's predictable how that will play out. The league will give it the green light, but Celtic will just take advantage of it to go play in some meaningless tournament in the Mediterranean in front of three men and a dog...then moan a few months later about how the fixtures at the end of the season are too congested.
If the break is in December, the fans will whinge about having to spend Boxing Day with their families instead of at the footie; if it is in January, there'll be uproar about the Scottish Cup's round of 32 being played far too late in the season. And you can guarantee that, whichever month they choose to have off will be one with four weeks of unseasonable warmth, whilst the months either side of it will be hit with weather so Extreme that the adjective justifies a capital letter.
Whether a winter break actually achieves its objectives or not, it will be ditched after two or three seasons, as everyone hankers after the 'good old days'. That's pretty much what happened the last time.
Moving to a summer setup is at least an idea that offers some radical change...for, if Scottish football is to pull even its head and shoulders out of the doldrums, it needs to do some interesting things. Most crucially, it needs to increase income. Summer football would at least mean that, for a period of about ten weeks, we wouldn't be competing with the English Premier League (though, for the rest of the season, we totally would).
Ideally the quality of the football would improve, but better players won't be attracted unless more money is brought in by other ways. The matchday experience needs improved, to attract more fans, and, more importantly, the TV viewer's experience needs to be better, so more people watch it, and more sponsors are interested.
Here's a few daft ideas I want to put out there:
Subsidize away fans
The best atmosphere at most games comes from the away support...and, if there's a good noise from the visitors' end, often the home fans will make an effort in response. So get more away fans in. It's expensive enough to watch your side at home without the often extortionate cost of travel, coupled with a £30 ticket to sit in the corner behind a pillar (not thinking of anyone in particular...;-)) So either find a way of making the travel cheap, or cut the prices of the tickets. Drastically. There's your atmosphere dramatically improved, right there.
And yes, that means letting in Rangers and Celtic fans on the cheap too - fair's fair.
American football-style introductions
In the NFL, the away team come out first, all in one group, whilst the home team's players are introduced individually by the announcer, with each of them running on to the pitch on their own. That would be an excuse for everyone to cheer...or boo...raucously many times before the match even kicks off. It'd do far more for the mood of the place than the current practice of the referee leading both teams out and making them shake hands and 'be nice' before kicking lumps out of each other.
Mike up the refs
As I said, do something drastic and different. It works well in rugby because only the captains can speak to the officials, and because of the lack of foul language. So restrict chat to the skippers on the football pitch too, and use the change as an excuse to clamp down drastically on the swearing; yellow and red cards all over the shop until everyone has washed their mouth out with soap and water (and Celtic at a massive disadvantage until Scott Brown finally wises up).
I reckon this would be a big hit with the viewing public - explanations for decisions, the dodgy accents of players and referees - and even if the novelty wore off fairly quickly, it would have at least got some folk watching the matches who wouldn't normally have done.
Regionalize the League Cup
This would be easier said than done, but it's an excuse for a load of local derbies, which is no bad thing. Divide all the clubs into groups of three or four, and play a round-robin series right at the start of the season. There's also something to be said for playing the League Cup final before Christmas as was the case previously, but that'd be tough on any side still in European competition.
This is pragmatic rather than idealistic; a perfect grass pitch is always better than any artificial surface. But, by the end of the autumn, all grass pitches in Scotland bar the one at Celtic Park are developing bare patches, and by the Spring they contain more potholes than our motorways (that's a lot of potholes). Plastic doesn't mean fantastic, but it does mean a consistent surface on which to play and protection against the weather. The newer surfaces are also good enough to play slick passing football. And clubs can hire it out during the week for extra cash.
Well, that's five ideas. Good or bad, it's five more ideas than the SFA and the SPFL have. Can you think of anything better?
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.