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SPL chief rejects summer football

Snow
Hamilton's league match against Dundee United was postponed due to the snow

The Scottish Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster insists there are no plans for summer football.

Five SPL matches were postponed in Scotland this week because of the weather but Doncaster says there is no evidence to suggest fans want change.

"Maybe we should be focusing on improving facilities to allow players young and old to enjoy their football whatever the weather," said Doncaster.

"Just try persuading supporters to change their pre-match routine."

A total of 19 matches were called off in Scotland this week because of freezing temperatures, although all but one of the five call-offs in the SPL were related to concerns for supporters' safety and not pitch conditions.

On Saturday, Hamilton's league match at New Douglas Park with Dundee United was called off by referee Iain Brines 10 minutes before kick-off because of a blizzard.

There may yet be a day when summer football works for Europe's professional football leagues. But for the time being, cold snaps, the odd call-off, gloves, scarves, hot pies and Bovril will remain staple fare at SPL games

SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster

The cold snap inevitably raised questions about the return of the SPL's winter shutdown and reintroduced the perennial issue of Scotland moving to a summer football calendar.

However, the SPL winter break, last scheduled in season 2000-01, shows no sign of being revived after Doncaster ruled out a shutdown in his blog earlier this month.

Doncaster also believes the issue of re-arranging the entire Scottish football calendar to accommodate a summer schedule is far from straightforward and would require massive changes to fans' habits.

"You have go back almost 10 years to find as harsh a cold snap as we are currently experiencing," Doncaster wrote on his SPL blog.

"Prior to this month, we had only lost on average one game per season due to frost or snow since the under-soil heating rule was introduced in 2003.

"For generations supporters have got used to a diet of winter football, culminating in a season finale in the spring.

"In last season's Premier League fans' survey a small majority favoured the re-introduction of a winter break but the difficulties with implementing such a break are well-documented.

"I have seen precious little evidence to suggest that supporters are clamouring for a change to summer football."

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell blamed Kilmarnock for the cancellation of Wednesday's league match at Rugby Park, which was called off by police after an inspection of the "footprint" area surrounding the stadium found conditions to be "resistant to mitigation".

Doncaster feels a change in the traditional match schedule would make little difference to the potential for call-offs and would cause conflicts with international commitments.

"There is not a lot we can do to change the weather in Scotland," said Doncaster.

"Over the years we have had games postponed in November, December, January, February and March, from a combination of snow, frozen grounds, icy roads and waterlogged pitches.

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"And fitting a nine-month season as well as a European Championships or World Cup into the remaining seven months simply does not work.

"Arguably, the recent bad weather is less an argument for summer football and more a case for focusing on good quality indoor facilities and all-weather pitches.

"This would let our coaches coach and enable our players to focus more on improving technique."

"There may yet be a day when summer football works for Europe's professional football leagues.

"But for the time being, cold snaps, the odd call-off, gloves, scarves, hot pies and Bovril will remain staple fair at SPL games."



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see also
Hibs manager favours winter break
29 Dec 09 |  Hibernian
Cold snap hits Scottish schedule
29 Dec 09 |  Scottish Premier
Celtic blame Killie for call-off
29 Dec 09 |  Celtic
Big chill decimates Scottish card
26 Dec 09 |  Scottish League
SPL rules out winter break return
18 Dec 09 |  Scottish Premier


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