Scottish Football have had a winter break on and off since 1998, and with the football season becoming more and more congested with International fixtures, and the subsequent loss of domestic football on those Saturdays, I think the cons now outweigh the pros.
Since the winter break this season, there has been three midweek matches, in what is normally the worst time of the year for the weather. This week last year, we had the ‘beast from the East’ and while the weather this year is the complete opposite, you have to question a three week break in the new year, which means games to be scheduled for midweek in January and February. I may be a traditionalist, but I prefer a 3pm Saturday kick-off. There was also a midweek match in December. I fully understand the need to use midweek matches, and these dates are limited because of the increase number of European matches, but having a winter break, making the need for matches in the meteorological winter hard to fathom. They don’t play European matches at this point because of Northern European countries having Summer football, so this is the only time that has free midweeks. Apart from that, many pitches are starting to struggle with wear and tear due to weather conditions, so the product on offer is not as good, and with more frequent matches being played on the surfaces, it will not improve the play.
The winter break would be more feasible if some of the League Cup matches weren’t scheduled for Saturdays. Why they have to play the first knock-out round on a Saturday in the middle of August, I don’t know. This takes out another Saturday. While playing the Semi-Finals on a Saturday is more acceptable (but I personally disagree with), it means the re-scheduling of another round of fixtures, potentially effecting up to eight teams. While these matches would have to be played on a midweek, the main bread and butter is the league and should have higher priority in the fixture scheduling. Especially with the League Cup, the authorities are trying to maximise the revenue, but it is being done to the detriment of the supporters. I may just be frustrated as a season ticket holder, there have been four midweek evening matches out of six for Hearts this season (scheduled not rearranged), and potentially another after the split (and that is definitely another discussion), which I have been unable to attend.
While I fully understand the desire for a winter break, it will only be a success if the ‘catch-up’ matches weren’t played in the Winter. This would mean using midweek for all League Cup matches (not including the final) being played in midweek, and also the removal of the split with five games to go, as this would open up the potential of another Saturday (when the Scottish Cup Semi-Finals take place), as the games would already be scheduled.
I feel that Scottish Football needs to look at the scheduling across the board. Whether that be summer football, moving to an 18-team league, or something else, I don’t know, but playing matches in the depth of Winter is not conducive to good football, especially if you are playing weekend, midweek frequently at this time of year.