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Football in the cold, will it ever change?

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By Walter Broeckx

I can only remember one game before that was postponed in the Emirates and this was also with some snow but even more with the prospect of the police of having a difficult evening with a lot of travelling fans that could meet each other in various stations.

So I can imagine the frustration  from some fans who found out about it being already on their way to the stadium since I have been through this myself.  (Happened to me yesterday Walter – we had already gone 80km or more when the word came through – Tony).   But when I looked at the pitch and the snow falling down it was obvious that we wouldn’t and couldn’t see any football in those circumstances.

And now I am at it I was thinking of how many leagues actually play in the winter and how many have a summer league. I was wondering if I could find some general consensus in Europe to see which time is the best to play football: in the winter or in the summer?

So I went on searching on the internet to see how things are arranged in Europe during this period of the year. And in my little survey I took 51 countries in consideration. I left out San Marino and Liechtenstein and I really hope the huge numbers of readers of Untold in those countries don’t mind.

So from these 51 countries there are 12 countries that play their league in the summer. Mostly countries from the north of Europe and Russia is also amongst them.  Playing at -50°C in Siberia is not someone would look forward to.  But Ireland has followed this route of having a summer league, although their northern neighbours (N Ireland) stick with the UK model.

And then we find  15 countries who have a winter competition with no break.  England is among them and the rest of the leagues in the UK are.  They just keep on playing without any real interruption apart from sometimes when Christmas or New Years day is situated in the weekend.

And then you have 5 countries who play in the winter but who have a mini break of maximum one month. This is the case in my own country and in Holland and also in France, just to name a few.

The biggest group however are the one that have a winter competition but who have a break of 2 or 3 months during the winter.  This group has 19 countries. There competition runs from July till may but they just skip the winter months.

When the word summer league comes above water (or should I say snow) we can hear as the most heard reaction: Football is a winter sport and it always has been.  Well from my survey I can learn that football is only played in the heart of the winter by some 15 countries of the 51 in total. And in fact 31 don’t play in the winter at all. This is more than the double of the hard winter boys.

And in those 15 “hard winter boys-leagues” you have some countries where they hardly understand the word winter as in countries like Spain and Greece there hardly is any winter cold.

So looking at it in general in countries where there is a colder climate in the winter, most of the countries prefer to stop their league.

So this could raise the question: shouldn’t we all switch to some kind of summer football league?  And apart from the it’s a tradition I was wondering are there any other benefits from playing in subzero temperatures?  At first sight I only see negative things: greater chance of muscle injuries. It is very cold for the supporters and maybe it doesn’t matter when you are 20 years old but I can tell you that when nearing the 50 year mark I don’t find it that amusing anymore to sit in the freezing cold.  One can also add to this that travelling in those conditions is not safe at all.

So apart from the “tradition” and “it has always been like that” I cannot see much benefit from playing in the winter.

But I could imagine some benefits from playing the league from February till November. Most of the games would be played in conumer friendly temperatures. Tell me honest when you like going to the stadium most? With -5°C or in the sunshine when it is 20°C? I know what I like most.

In which temperature would you think you can see the best football? On a snowy pitch or an a perfect pitch in the summer?  I think we all know the answer. How many times would you travel to the ground only to find you can turn back because the game had to be cancelled in the summertime? Not many times I think.

To be honest when I look at it, I can only see more advantages when you play a summer league.  But for those who hold on to the tradition I don’t think we will see this happening in the very near future. The way football is moving can be more compared to the speed of a turtle than the speed of a rabbit.

But do keep in mind that since this season we will see the start of the new Ladies league which will be played in the summer. And keep in  mind the year 2022. In that year we will have the World cup in Qatar and after having handed the world cup to this country Fifa has suddenly realized that in the summer it is way too hot in Qatar to play football. And they are talking about holding the world cup in January as the temperatures are much lower then.  A bit late to think of this but I guess the people in charge of Fifa will have had their reasons to give it to Qatar. Most of the reason will have started with the letter D and ended on ollar.

But this would have as a result that for a lot of countries the world cup will come in the middle of their season. And so the league will have to be stopped. Or… some people might come up with the idea of doing a ladies trick: making the league a summer league.  And to be honest about it: I wouldn’t mind. It’s much nicer to stand outside the Auld Triangle (I really think he should give us a free drink next time around – don’t you think Tony?) with a drink in your hand in the warmth of the sunshine instead  of being  frozen to the bone as we had on a few occasions.

Untold Arsenal – where it is always warm

Arsenal History

Making the Arsenal (not a flake of snow in the whole story)

18 comments to Football in the cold, will it ever change?

  • A subject somewhat close to our hearts Walter. As I intimated in my editorial addition to your commentary we were well on the way to London from the Midlands when the news came through that the game was off, and had that dreadful event of simply going round a roundabout and heading back the way we had come.

    Football started as a winter game because many of the clubs we now know and love were originally cricket clubs or (in a few cases) rowing clubs. As I have been writing up the histories of clubs that Arsenal played in the early days time and again I have come across details of meetings where the club committee met to decide if for the winter they should set up a football club.

    After the first decision was made there was a second – should it be Association Football or Rugby Football. Votes were taken, and some clubs now in the league are only there because of the tiniest of majorities for “Association”.

    By the early 20th century League football began on 1 September (not on or about, but on 1 September – unless it was a Sunday – and finished at some stage before 30 April – to leave four months free for cricket – and the international club tours which began in the 19th century.

    Anyway, we had some good conversations in the car yesterday, and I learned quite a lot about Dante’s poetry and the origin of the Italian language – so not all was lost.

  • nicky

    comment already submitted

  • critic

    i was so disappointed, n i dn’t even have 2 travel to watch arsenal(i hav a t.v in my house)…just can’t imagine ur disappointment …
    Nice thought..

  • nicky

    As a follower of both football and cricket in equal measure, I would not favour extending the football season.Rather than that, I would prefer to achieve a necessary winter break by either reducing the number of games to be played OR introducing added midweek matches as part of the fixture list.

  • Nicky, the trouble with mid-week games is that lots of us do travel a long distance to get to matches, and a mid-week game means taking time off work, and getting back home very late.

    Why should there not be cricket and football on at the same time. Rugby League moved to a summer game – did that harm anyone? I doubt that it made any odds to cricket or to rugby union. A March to November season would suit me perfectly. OK, I’d miss a couple of games in my summer hols, but even so, it would be a much more sensible solution.

  • nicky

    Tony, Point taken. As a non-resident of the UK and a TV follower of football, I sometimes forget the dedicated “live” attender of matches. Sorry!

  • Gooneraside

    Great idea, Walter.

    Now if only you could get the TV companies to agree.

  • RedGooner

    Great Article, With our country been built on traditions its difficult to change anything even when its for the best.
    I whole heartdly agree on issues like having a winter 1 month break and even reducing the ammount of teams in the Premier league to 17 instead of 19 would be perfect.

    There would be so much opposition from club owners it would they would need to give them 3 years notice to be ready for a 5 team drop. Then those as you pointed out who want footy on boxing day etc wont want to break that tradition.

    But there are so many issues with our game and we seem reluctant to change anything even if its our football that suffers as a result. Refereeing is poor we dont want goal line technology or any kind of video evidence included, winter breaks as you pointed out players more prone to injury longer season players jaded attending world cups. The england players can park in handicapped spaces shag eachothers wives, girl friends fight get drunk in public spend time in jail and your still good enough to represent your country.

    Great topic but cant see any change there is a resistance to change over here just like when peter hillwood didnt want an american investor in stan kronke initaly involved in our club.

    But change has to start somewhere and through articles like this and others in the media picking up on it and repeating it maybe, just maybe someday it will start the ball rolling.

    Good work as ever from the Untold Arsenal, The one supporters website that gets people thinking.

  • Renan

    I think a one month break in December/January would be the most suitable idea. During that one month break they could also arrange 3-4 international fixtures that would keep the players match fit. If some of them don’t get called, at least they could still celebrate Christmas with their family without having to realise that there will be a game a couple of days later ! So they could sit back, have a cup of hot chocolate while watching sitcoms !

    Here’s the problem with a summer league. Because most people go on holiday in June, July, or August, that means there would be less people who watch football in that period, because there are less people who watch football that also means TV broadcasters will generate less revenue, so clubs would actually make less money in that period. Well maybe it’s not a big problem for bigger clubs like the Arsenal as we could surely cover that loss, but smaller clubs like Wigan (no offence) or Birmingham would suffer. And also where would teams hold their usual off-season training ? They would have to travel very far to Asia to have the best possible condition.

    So sometimes it’s not easy as we think to change a system which is already set. We will have to re-make the very basic system and rules to even think to make changes. But nice work once again from Untold who never seems to run out of new ideas.

  • Tee Song

    One big reason why it will never happen–FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Cup. Moving League soccer to a summer season will mean a major disruption to the season every other year unless those competitions are moved to the winter. Considerations for Qatar notwithstanding, that’s just not going to happen.

  • walter

    A stop in football in December and January would mean that you have 10 months to do your league. This is the same amount of time as we now use in the winter league.
    But as of the better weather you will have no games cancelled for bad weather it would mean that you can have the schedule followed more than you have it now.
    In some of the leagues where they stop a few months in the winter they still manage to get the league ending in time now so in those countries (like Germany) they manage to play all the league games, the cup games in som 8 months time.
    So this would mean that you even could have a summer break in the summer league of 1 or even 2 months.
    In that summer break period you could play world cups or European championships. Also the African nations cup would be no problem anymore as it would be played outside the league time. So I think African players would benefit from it and maybe get even more chances.

  • jcloud

    It’s an irony but Russia is about to switch to Winter season in 2 or 3 years. Because when the Russian clubs play in Europe, they struggle to keep a good form in Spring, since their season is over…

  • The U.S. plays a summer league, starting in late March and the MLS Cup is in November. The big thing that bothers me about it is that it’s all cockeyed from Europe’s leagues. By the time the U.S. is starting, the major European leagues are coming down the home stretch, and vice versa. Not to mention that, due to the heat, the beer intake is more, although despite the sport’s history elsewhere I’ve never seen an “off” at an MLS game.

    The smaller thing that bothers me is, who can wear a scarf in the winter? Apparently, some crazy people.

  • I mean, who can wear a scarf in the SUMMER. See, the idea of a summer league even messes up my typing.

  • gandiv

    I don’t see why we cannot just have a winter break. It would make survivng the snowy conditions which obviously this country cant handle and give the players a much needed break

  • Tee Song – I think that is wrong – the Qatar world cup will be in January, and there is a new uprising of big clubs to break away from Uefa. Indeed some of the big federations are quietly talking about it, because Uefa wants to spread the TV money evenly, and that would hinder the English FA for example. I suspect that in four years football will be unrecognisable.

  • lego

    Last year when the Emirates was one of the only venues to successfully work to beat the big freeze and avoid cancellation, Everton came and nipped us for a draw. Now they do one better to City. I think all clubs should take note. When everyone else is calling games off and you’ve got Everton next on the list, have your snow removal crew call out sick.

  • Tee Song – I think that is wrong – the Qatar world cup will be in January, and there is a new uprising of big clubs to break away from Uefa. Indeed some of the big federations are quietly talking about it, because Uefa wants to spread the TV money evenly, and that would hinder the English FA for example. I suspect that in four years football will be unrecognisable.