In January a Club Website poll found that over half of the grassroots community would welcome a summer season for kids’ football – and a third for all amateur football – but how do people feel about making such a signigicant change to our game when the same question is asked in the summer?
Every year there seems to be a debate about the timing of the grassroots football calendar.
Invariably, however, that debate happens when there is snow on the ground outside, or terminally-waterlogged pitches have meant a winter of discontent at grassroots level.
The inevitable questions centre on why many teams are forced to endure weeks of cancelled fixtures before cramming games in come springtime and whether we’d be better trying to play – particularly for kids learning the game – when the sun is shining and the pitches are in a healthier state.
Sun-kissed fields and shirt-sleeved spectators seem a world away in midwinter, which may influence the debate, so we wanted to find out what you thought about a possible switch to a summer game during this glorious summer of 2013.
Would the onset of sunny weather, holidays and the cricket season make people more reluctant to tamper with the traditional calendar?
Only marginally, it turns out.
Club Website posted the same poll question this month that we put to our members back in January and, yet again, we found the grassroots community split fairly evenly down the middle.
48 percent said they would welcome a summer game for kids’ football – down from 51% in January – while most of those people – 34% of the total number polled – would also prefer to see the whole of grassroots football switch to a March to October season – up from 33% in January.
52% of respondents opposed a switch to a full summer season – up from 49% – but many of those – 19% of the total polled, down from 26% – said they would welcome an official winter break.
Club Website’s Facebook page was, as ever, alive with debate one of grassroots football’s big questions.
“March to October is a great idea,” said Russell Endean, “especially for the younger children who are trying to get into the game but get put off by the cold, wind and rain.”
Sam Wilson was among those who disagreed: “Rock hard pitches, sweltering heat and the team constantly being shaken up by people going on holiday? No thanks.”
The issue around school holidays has already been tackled in Scotland, where a March to November season was introduced in 2011 for development football up to the under-12s age group by making games non-mandatory during the peak holiday season, but instead played subject to the availability of coaches and players.
Scottish Youth FA Chief Executive David Little said the change has worked out “fantastically well” for the younger age groups, while the English FA has already allowed leagues in some parts of the country, such as Durham, to make a similar switch if circumstances allow.
When the prospect of a break for holidays in July and August was put to the Club Website audience, support for a summer season for kids football remained strong, with 47% in favour of such a move.
One of those people was Spencer Cotton, although he didn’t see it happening any time soon.
“We played once in 15 weeks this season because of the weather,” he posted on Facebook. “I’m sure the kids, coaches and parents would all like to play in warmer conditions but many local clubs and parks play cricket in the summer. I would love a season from March – June then September – November but can’t see it happening.”
Al Dixon wasn’t so keen on the idea. “It’s not about the dates, it’s the availability of pitches. Many councils remove the posts and mark out the area as a cricket pitch,” he said.
The issue of facilities could prove a significant hurdle to overcome, as it is for many in grassroots football already, but, with extra daylight hours allowing for greater co-operation between sports, then it is a problem that should be at least worth exploring solutions to.
Whilst not high on the FA’s youth football agenda, they are open to further discussions on summer football – a change to the game that has been welcomed for younger age groups north of the border.
Our latest poll results – the first carried out at this time of year – show that those in favour of playing football in the summer are not just motivated by the snow on the ground when the usual winter debate takes place.
Should we make the most of the beautiful weather to help the beautiful game?
It’s a debate that will no doubt run and run, whatever the weather.
CW Poll: Should the grassroots football season be changed to March – October to avoid the winter weather and make the most of the warmer, drier, lighter months? (January results here)
– for ALL grassroots football 34.2%
– for KIDS football only 13.9%
– keep the season as it is 32.6%
– but we should have a scheduled winter break 19.2%
Total votes cast: 1,587
CW Poll #2: Should all kids/youth football change to a March – October season, with a six week break for the school summer holidays?
Total votes cast: 2,386
Tell us what you think!
What do you think about a potential summer season for grassroots football? It’s a debate that always exercises opinion, so we’d love to hear yours. Have your say in our comments section below.