Summer football anybody?
Gerallt Owen - 5/2/11
In the wake of possibly the most disruptive period of weather for football in Wales during my time with the club there is only one issue to discuss in our ‘Talking Point’ section this week –summer football. It seems an excellent idea when your pitch is covered in 6 inches of snow or where it is so hard playing on concrete would be a more pleasant prospect. However the practicalities of change offer much bigger challenge that the advocates of the move admit.
Football has been played during the winter in Britain since its creation in the 1860s. It has weathered the vagaries of the Welsh climate with fortitude down the decades. Now some believe that a switch to playing in the summer would avoid the problems of snow and ice and waterlogged pitches but that it would provide spectators with the prospect of football on balmy summer evenings with spectators turning up in their hoards in T-shirts and shorts to watch football with no competition from the overpaid Prima donnas of the English Premiership. It seems an enchanting prospect! However when you analyse the idea further clear problems raise their heads. Pitches may not be hard with ice but they will be hard I few have been dealt a dry spring or summer. However for me the main bugbear against summer football is the elitist nature of the proposal for Wales. Welsh Premier secretary John Deakin, a long-time supporter of a summer switch, recently said, “... it would be the best thing that could happen to the league.” And there in 12 words is the crux of the problem. All the proposals I have ever heard are based on the Welsh Premier becoming a summer league and not football in Wales and not football in Wales all playing in the summer. Changing one league has obvious attractions for the FAW –only 11 clubs would need sprinkler systems- the New Saints have an all weather pitch! This at a stroke would solve the problems of hard pitches and therefore everything in the garden is rosy!
Well not really. If only one league, the one at the top, changes to summer football that means all other leagues remain the same. How therefore will promotion and relegation to the elite summer league work? How would a club winning the Cymru Alliance in April get promoted to a league that has started in March? It would be impossible to wait until the following March so what is the club supposed to do? Twiddle its thumbs for 11 months and join the WPL the following year? Even if the Cymru Alliance could finish earlier it would mean the promoted club would play from August one year all the way to November of the following year without a break for players or administrators and the strain on clubs finances of such a relentless number of games would be unsustainable. The situation with relegated clubs would be the same, with the WPL finishing in November and the Cymru Alliance not restarting until August of the following year.
The only way summer football summer football could possibly work was if every league in Wales changed, It will be all or nothing otherwise these problems will hurt clubs lower down the pyramid. The WPL is only concerned about the WPL but the FA of Wales has a duty to all clubs and leagues in the Principality. It has to take an overview. Therefore it has to be all clubs or none at all. I am sure there would be strong resistance from traditionalists to the change, clashes with cricket and rugby league may well be a real problem – Neath springs to mind. Playing on pitches during the growing season may well have an adverse effect on pitches. Summer holidays could affect player availability. There are problems and it is far less simple than Mr. Deakin would have us believe!
Talking Point (Match Programme February 5th 2011)