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Scottish Premiership

A Brighter Scottish Summer? The Positives and Negatives of a Summer Fixture List

Calum Pettitt

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I am sure a good number of us have sat through a match in freezing conditions, in the pouring rain, and in gale force winds; played in a stadium that at best can be described as dilapidated. The standard of the football probably wasn’t much better as the game was undoubtedly slow-paced and not particularly easy viewing. Some fans would say you are lucky – others would say that you are worse off for not going through such an ordeal in order to watch your side play. These sentiments are also shared by the clubs that occupy the professional league system within Scotland; as some claim that no fan wants to watch a match in horrendous weather and attendances are suffering as a result of the current system. While others state that the current system is far more beneficial as moving to the summer months would interfere with other major international competitions.

Scotland is easily the most northerly country in the world that still operates in footballing terms in the winter months and Glasgow averages 170.3 days of rain per year – which is enough to make it the wettest city in Great Britain. Scotland itself is no stranger to seeing games postponed as a result of this, one fixture between Airdrie and Stranraer in 1963 was put back 33 times before finally being played. Similarly, a match between Inverness and Falkirk saw 29 cancellations in 1979. The most recent season in Scotland has been relatively tame with just 21 postponements put into force throughout the course of season – although this was helped by a particularly tame winter and a number of clubs now playing on synthetic surfaces which are largely unaffected by more extreme conditions.

In a recent survey issued by BBC Scotland, 10 out of the 12 SPL clubs said they would consider the introduction of summer football in order to combat the sometimes very grim conditions in which some matches are played. In addition, 28 of the 42 clubs that were asked also felt that summer football could be a suitable alternative to the current scheduling. In fact, only 7 clubs in the entire professional football system in Scotland decided that a move from the current fixture list would interest them.

The current Scottish football season runs parallel to the English one – from August until towards the end of May. There are already a number of clubs that play their football in the summer months; these include the likes of Sweden, Norway, and the Republic of Ireland. Whereas numerous other nations such as Germany and Russia operate using extended winter breaks as the colder months can leave football unsafe for fans and players alike. The new system proposed has identified a league season running from March to November would be the most beneficial to Scottish football as a whole.

The survey also looked to identify the reasons why clubs would or would not consider a move to the summer months. The SPL clubs that were offered responses stated reasons including increased media commercial revenue streams, a competitive advantage for Scottish teams competing in European tournaments. However, while teams would be able to take the qualifiers in stride as, for example, Stjarnan of Iceland used to their advantage to defeat Motherwell last summer – this does not help to explain how sides will do in the tournament proper if they were to qualify and be forced into playing deep into the off-season. Further reasons put forward include better weather and improved conditions for pitches, not having to compete against English football would help improve attendances and viewing figures, and the poor weather can contribute to damaging pitches as well as the reduced chance of injury to players. Among the other current supporters of a change in the current scheduling system are Supporters Direct Scotland who identified that a restructuring of the footballing season could result in savings for clubs through a reduced need for lighting, friendlier conditions to attract more fans, and sharing the sentiment of some SPL clubs in feeling that the potential for more lucrative TV deals for Scottish football due to not competing with some of the most dominant leagues in Europe.

However, there are also a number of issues that have being raised by numerous sources throughout the Scottish footballing system. Some feel that there would not be any financial incentives to moving to the summer months and that a good amount of the problems with playing in the winter could be solved by using synthetic pitches, some feel that many players at part-time level could struggle to find time over the summer for time with their family, and that Scottish football may struggle to compete with other summer sports. A further voice of concern is that of SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster, who has labelled the issue as “complex” and that it could prove to be an issue if Scottish clubs are still playing their football while the likes of the World Cup and the European Championships are ongoing.

It is the opinion of many that moving matches from winter into the summer months would provide strong benefits financially to the Scottish footballing pyramid, among other benefits, as the matches would not have to compete with the leagues in Europe that can boast greater quality and financial incentives to TV companies. However, it would be a shame to see the loss of what some would believe to be a great football fan tradition of trudging out and getting absolutely soaked through. I, like many others, believe that football support isn’t necessarily meant to be easy and that it sometimes feels like as much a chore as it does an exciting way to spend a Saturday afternoon or a chilly midweek evening. While many will applaud the consideration of moving matches to the more friendly summer months and the exchange of a hot drink and a woolly hat for an ice cream and a pair of sunglasses. However, there is definitely something etched into the romanticism of footballing folklore which includes watching your team in rain or shine and traveling for 6 hours in a cramped car only to find that the game is called off by a steward who pulled the short straw.

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Calum is a Reading fan and has been a season ticket holder for many years. He is currently studying for a degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology.

Rangers

Rangers will hope Nikola Katic can become their Virgil van Dijk

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has brought Nikola Katic to Ibrox and will hope he can have a similar impact as a former hero across Glasgow.

Mathew Nash

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Rangers recently snapped up the signature of Nikola Katic from Slaven Belupo. The one-cap Croatia international cost a fee reported by The Scottish Sun to be in the region of £1.5 million. It was a deal which had Rangers fans frantically Googling the 21-year-old.

What they have found has fans in Glasgow excited. Katic is a brilliant young talent and the sort of foreign recruit that Rangers used to make. In recent times most of Rangers’ recruits have been homegrown talent or run-of-the-mill players from south of the border.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Last summer they snapped up Alfredo Morelos, an inspired piece of business despite his frustrating habits. This year, Katic looks like an even better catch.

His former sporting director has this week stated he can go on to become the next Dejan Lovren, the £20 million Liverpool defender.

However, it is the man he partners at Liverpool that Rangers boss Steven Gerrard will hope he can emulate. Virgil van Dijk was plucked from relative obscurity by Celtic back in 2013 from Groningen.

He went on to become Scottish football’s standout defender and earned a move to Southampton. Now the world’s most expensive centre-back at £75 million, Rangers fans can only hope that Katic can have a similar impact at Ibrox as the Dutchman did at Parkhead.

If he can, then Rangers have found themselves an absolute gem.

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Celtic

Fiorentina links to Liam Henderson highlight massive £115k error by Celtic

Celtic sold the midfielder to Bari in January.

Mathew Nash

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Bari midfielder Liam Henderson is the target of a £2 million bid from Italian side Fiorentina, according to reports. The Scotsman claims the attacking midfielder is wanted by La Viola, with Parma and Bologna also keeping tabs on his situation.

The news will certainly interest Celtic fans. Henderson came through the ranks at Parkhead. After nearly ten years at the club, however, he decided to move on permanently in January, with his chances at Celtic seeming minimal.

It was a shame in the eyes of many Celtic fans. The midfielder had impressed during loan spells at Rosenborg and Hibernian and always looked a talent when playing for Celtic. The fee involved was even more shocking. With his contract expiring in the summer Celtic sold him to Bari for just £115,000.

He then went on to become a regular for the Serie B side, scoring twice and bagging two assists in 18 appearances.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The fact Fiorentina are now looking to pay £2 million for the player will justify the comments of those who said Celtic should have given him more chances and a new deal this season.

With Stuart Armstrong now said to be considering his own future in Glasgow, Henderson could have been a great internal replacement. Just look at the progression of Callum McGregor. Henderson could have been on a par with the current Celtic star.

Celtic will no doubt be ruing the way they handled Henderson’s situation as one of Italian football’s biggest clubs come swooping in.

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Celtic

Celtic round-up: Odsonne Edouard deal close, club hold talks with Sean Clare

A round-up of the day’s most interesting news surrounding Celtic.

Jamie Watts

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Close on striker

Celtic are reportedly “progressing” with talks regarding a permanent deal for Paris Saint Germain striker Odsonne Edouard, but there’s “work to be done” according to a BBC Sport.

The 20-year-old spent last season on loan at Celtic from Paris St-Germain, scoring an impressive 11 goals and bagging 4 assists in 29 appearances. And Brendan Rodgers has decided he wants to land the Frenchman on a permanent basis.

The reports claim the French giants are after a hefty fee though, with the asking price in excess of £8 million.

Photo: Getty Images

Talks for midfielder

Celtic’s business doesn’t end there either. The club has reportedly held talks with Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Sean Clare, according to TeamTalk. Although they are facing stiff competition for the his signature.

And Rangers are among the 14 clubs courting the player this summer. However, the player is said to be keen on the idea of linking up with Brendan Rodgers, as his track-record of developing talent is seriously impressive – with Kieran Tierney, Moussa Dembele and Callum McGregor being the most recent examples.

The midfielder played 31 times last season, bagging two goals and three assists.

Photo: Getty Images

Former Hoop on the move

Former Celtic right-back Saidy Janko is a target for Portuguese champions Porto this summer, according to French newspaper L’Equipe.

The 22-year-old left Parkhead last summer to sign a four-year deal with Ligue 1 outfit Saint-Etienne, and his performances seem to have caught the attention of the Portuguese heavyweights

The ex-Manchester United man originally joined Celtic in 2015, but failed to establish himself as a first-team regular due to regular issues with injuries and a number of shaky performances.

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