Support strengthens for summer football

Worst winter disruption in recent years drives support for a change in grassroots football calendar

Ton Pentre FC

Support is growing in the grassroots football community for a switch to a summer football season, according to the results of two new Club Website polls.

Two-thirds (66%) of 1,200 Club Website members surveyed want to see all children’s football moved to a March to November season, with a break for the school summer holidays, compared to less than half (47%) in favour of such a move just three years ago.

A second poll found almost half (48%) of our members want to see the entire grassroots football calendar moved from the winter months – an increase of 14% on 2013 – with fewer than one in four (24%) of the 2,300 respondents in favour of keeping the season exactly as it is – a decrease of 9%.

As in 2013, one in five people (19%) don’t want to see a move to summer football but would welcome a winter break.

The results demonstrate a shift of attitude towards changing the grassroots calendar in recent years. After successive winters beset by pitch problems, none worse than this season – which has seen many teams go months without a game – the majority of the grassroots public now want to see radical change.

Woodley Utd FC

This view was supported by the recent grassroots football survey carried out by Genesis Sports, which found 73% of more than 1,100 respondents in favour of extending the season to play in May/June and 77% in favour of a winter break.

The frustration of recent weeks has lead to many taking to social media to share their grievances over the current structure of the game.

“Getting really fed up with this weather now,” commented Steve Cooper on our Facebook page.

“One game played in eight weeks. And Wenger has said that we will have a £100 million player soon with the extra TV money. That would buy another 150 odd 3G pitches for starters. So much for investment in grass roots football.”

Hannah Proctor was similarly frustrated, saying: “It’s just not on. My daughter u13 team have played one game in over three months! Pitches are never going to be playable before the season ends.”

She was not alone. Our latest poll suggests that almost three-quarters (72%) of grassroots teams have had at least four matches cancelled this winter, with a staggering one in four teams (25%) missing out on no less than 10 games.

Cromwell AFC weather tweetSo what is the solution to this annual problem?

One league to have done something about it themselves is the Bolton, Bury and District Junior Football League (BBDJFL), who last month announced a move to a summer season from March 2017 – a move backed by its member clubs.

The league faced stern criticism from other sports who felt that the move would impact on their playing numbers but, after coming together for discussions on the issue – including a live radio debate – all parties have agreed to work together to achieve the best outcome for all sports.

So where there is a will, there is a way and Football Association rules allow any league across the country to implement a similar change, if it works for them.

But if you’re hoping that leagues across the country will soon be asked to follow suit, you may be disappointed. Whilst the FA say they welcome debate on the issue, they show no sign of taking steps towards a wider rollout.

Stourport Swifts“Any individuals or organisations that are working for positive change within football should be commended and positive, constructive debate on how to improve things is always welcomed,” an FA spokesperson told Club Website.

“Of course whether there should be wholesale changes or a degree of license among clubs and leagues to act autonomously is up for debate, but it is certainly a debate worth having.

“Some regions will be more affected by adverse weather conditions in the winter than others. Likewise, some will see greater value in a change in the fixture calendar than others.”

In other words, don’t hold your breath folks.

With 3G pitches still in scarce supply and too expensive for many, the usual British weather is likely to cause problems to the grassroots football season for years to come.

But if you want to get out of the usual cycle of cancelled matches and fixture backlog come March and April, you’ll need to get talking to your fellow clubs and your league and make the change happen yourselves.

CW poll result #1: Should all KIDS’ football switch to a March – November season with a break for the school summer holidays? (2013 results in brackets)

– Yes 66% (47%)
– No 34% (53%)

Total votes cast: 1,243 (2,386)

CW poll result #2: Should the grassroots football season be changed to March – November to avoid the winter weather? (2013 results in brackets)

Yes 57% (48%)
– for ALL grassroots football 48% (34%)
– for KIDS football only 9% (14%)

No 43% (52%)
– keep the season as it is 24% (33%)
– but we should have a scheduled winter break 19% (19%)

Total votes cast: 2,227 (1,587)

This article appeared in The Clubhouse – the monthly newsletter from Club Website. To get the best grassroots news, offers and competitions straight to your inbox every month, sign up today!

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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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18 Comments

  1. david bray on February 25, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Thing’s have to change we didn’t play a match from october until last Saturday which was awash out and then ruined the pitch. March to November has to be the way forward with a 6 week summer holiday break.our league must have seen a massive drop in revenue with no football for 4 months. My belief is a switch would attract more kids younger kids playing which in turn would see more teams created and more revenue for the league it a win win.lost count how many 6 or 7 year olds have turned up got freezing cold and wet and never come again.

  2. Mark Clinton on February 25, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    I’ve been saying we should move to summer league football (March – Nov, with August mid summer break) ever since seeing the impact of Rugby League by incpetion of Super League (summer format).
    Winter’s should be confined to indoor/3G pitch football, preferably Futsol leagues to enhance players’ foot skills in readiness for summer league programme on grass.

  3. PAUL CRITCHETT on February 25, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    all the time 1 player can get paid £300,000 a week then grass roots football will be licking the bottom of the rim of the bottom of the barrel for any monetary handouts

  4. Donna on February 25, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    So let’s stop kids getting into other sports shall we all in the favour of football. What about summer sports they have a place too Cricket for example

  5. Michael Fallon on February 25, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I agree with moving the kids season from March to November with a break in the summer holidays. We have had our seasons fixtures decimated this season due to the weather and this seems a great idea.

  6. carl on February 25, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    This would destroy other sports! Children should play an array of sports until they are teenager’s as this makes them stronger athletes and rounded individuals.
    FA should invest in the pitches instead of plumping for the easy cheaper option!

  7. Stephen Wornes on February 25, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    One major problem is the cut back in public sports facilities`maintenance due to this current government.
    Against impinging on the cricket season. Love both sports. Want to play both!

  8. Mike Turner on February 25, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    It’s all very well for people to react in a predictable manner to an unusually severe situation, but I suspect there has been very little proper thought given to the consequences of attempting to move football to the summer months. Without going into the effects on traditional summer sports which are many and obvious, all shared facilities will face insurmountable problems such as pressure on changing rooms, and showering arrangements, overlapping soccer pitches and cricket outfields, an increase in and severity of injuries due to hard grounds, holiday commitments – the list is endless. We run a shared ground and are fortunate that soccer and cricket pitches don’t actually overlap, but the cost of insurance for playing both sports at the same time is prohibitive and the simple fact is that, as a community funded facility, we need both sports to survive. There must be hundreds of similar situations. A knee jerk reaction to a relatively unique set of circumstances is no excuse to alter fundamentally the long established fabric of recreational sport in this country. I don’t believe it could work without serious and far reaching consequences.

  9. Steve Cooper on February 26, 2016 at 7:13 am

    We need hundreds of 3G pitches, somehow the FA needs to intervene and get a large chunk of the new Premier League TV deal money pushed down.

    This should have been negotiated at the outset, the amount of money paid to the clubs is obscene…….

    The gap grows ever wider between grassroots and the professional game.

  10. Paul on February 26, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Things do have to change and move forward. Its just the state of the pitches during the winter months which are more often than not unplayable.
    For those engaged in mini soccer dragging kids as young as 6 onto a muddy field on a sunday morning when its bucketing down with rain, blowing a gale and has a temperature nearly 0°C has no benefits for learning football what so ever. Coaches end up spending half their time trying to keep the kids warm.
    Im sure everyone will agree that kids and the coaches have the most fun when they are outside in fairer months in their shorts in the sun and not on a cold wet week night in february.
    Lets move towards what Pete Sturgess has said and play futsal during those winter months – improve our players technically, then back to normal football once the summer months are here.

  11. msb03 on February 26, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Are we missing the point here completely. Why are games being called off? waterlogged pitches. Why are they waterlogged? lack of or no maintenance. We all know from experience that when council budgets get cut football and other sports are the first to suffer. Yes it would be ideal to have lots of 3/4g pitches but the practicality of supply them is nearly impossible. approx. cost of new 3/4g pitch £800,000 plus someone to maintain and run the facility. Cost of putting in a proper grass pitch with the right drainage soils, sand, gravel etc. approx. £25,000. So for everyone 3/4g you provide you could upgrade/provide 30 or so pitches and allow the clubs a better chance of maintaining them – think how man more teams would be able to play games each week at a reasonable time and cost rather than having to fit their games in around the busy schedule of the one 3/4g pitch shared between the 4 or 5 clubs in the area. There will still be games that are called off but not as many. lets look at solving the existing problems before the knee jerk reaction to disrupt traditional winter and summer sports that lots of footballers play

  12. Phil Ellaway on February 28, 2016 at 11:49 am

    It must be really nice to have your own playing facilities, where you can dictate when you are going to play. The reality for many Clubs is they hire pitches from local authorities, which in summer become cricket pitches, where will those Clubs play? 3G is the usual answer, but how many 3G pitches are actually FA approved, in my county less than a third of 3G pitches are; this means two thirds have not been inspected and approved as being safe. Football is a winter sport, taht’s where it should stay, otherwise we may catually lose a lot of teams and players because there will not be the facilities for them to play

  13. Warren Barlow on February 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    The Bolton Bury and District Football League successfully run a summer programme in 2015 involving 184 teams from U7s to U12s

    This year we have had 13 weeks of cancellations due to the weather

    We have consulted with our members who have asked us to swap our U7s to U14s to a March-Oct season with a 6 week voluntary break for the school summer holidays

    Voluntary as teams have asked if they can play, will we let them

    We have submitted a formal sanction request to the FA for this switch to happen commencing March 2017

    Since outlining our plans we have come under fire from certain quarters, but we have also received huge support including around 50 additional teams from the area who have asked to join this league if we receive the appropriate sanction

    Regards

    Warren Barlow
    Chairman
    BBDFL

    http://www.bbdfl.org

  14. Tony Ruane on February 28, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    If junior football were to move to summer fixtures we would have to disband our junior section altogether at the moment we have 5 junior teams we share our ground with a cricket section and would not be able to continue although we have some undeveloped land within our grounds we cannot get any funding for new junior out pitches our club was started in 1921

  15. Roger Sox on February 29, 2016 at 12:26 am

    Those saying this is a knee jerk reaction to one bad winter are way off the mark. Many have been arguing this case for a long time. Grass roots clubs are a brilliant asset to their communities, but sometimes the people running them can have a bit of a ‘it was good enough in my day’ attitude.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that for every club that says it can’t move to summer football for kids because their pitch is by a cricket field there are ten clubs who could. And imagine if mini soccer was invented tomorrow – would the people who dreamt it up really decide that the best way to attract 7 and 8 year olds and guarantee them lots of fun would be to have it on Sunday mornings in the coldest, wettest, muddiest, windiest months of the year?

  16. david bray on February 29, 2016 at 10:23 am

    I don’t agree any pitch that is used over winter will never be fit for cricket in summer.They might be one or 2 clubs affected but after speaking to parents at local schools I think we would actually get a better turn out if fixtures were march to November. With the increase money available by not paying thousands for winter training tne money could be reinvested in to ground maintenance or even buying up patches of land from local authorities to then getour own facilities. I do agree they might be the odd club affected butim sure its a problem that can be overcome. 4 month’s this year 3 m8nths in previous 2 years without football can’t continue. If this country is ever going to compete on the world stage it has to start at the bottom.no academies or Senior football would be affected neither would school football we are just talking mini and junior games.

  17. david bray on February 29, 2016 at 10:32 am

    The council’s don’t have the cash to upgrade facilities the fa have not been forthcoming in investment in 3g pitches so only alternative is march to November switch . lighter nights better weather gives many more weeks and fixture dates cup games could happen earlier in season and be over by September or October. Pitches would also be less used in winter which would benefit youth and senior leagues. Apart from 1 or 2 clubs who might have a issue nwith ground sharing with other sports can’t really see a problem. Just wish it would happen sooner rather than years of debate and a lost generation of kids who could have played.its a fact winters are wetter that is not going to improve. We now just need associations with a forward thinking mentality.

  18. Martin Wood on February 29, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    What makes me laugh about this is that the BBDFL were the league used by Nick Levett when doing his Youth Development Review. They were shown as “the super league” who played most of their small sided games in the soccer dome on 3G and also had a Futsal league running as well for the winter months. I wonder what went wrong?

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