Date: 20th May 2015
SUMMER football looks set to edge ever closer as it emerges that the SPFL are set to discuss preliminary rounds of the Scottish League Cup to be played in July, according to a report in the Scottish Daily Mail.
Great! Or is it?
Summer football has long been supported by fans up and down the country, however, July already has summer football in the shape of friendlies and some European football qualifiers for at least two top-flight sides next season.
Granted, the plans would not be in place for the start of next season, but they could be in place for July 2016.
One of the reasons given for the proposed plans is that it will help attract more fans in the earlier rounds of the League Cup as low attendances have been a problem in many grounds. Another reason is that the new set-up will, hopefully, make the competition tighter and more competitive.
In theory, this is all very well. However, what has not been considered is that many people often go on holiday during July, especially as people who have children are constrained by school term dates. This means that attendances might actually reduce rather than increase.
In addition to this, the qualifying group matches which would be played in July, will still be contested between teams in the lower leagues before they come up against teams in the top flight. Scotland’s European competition qualifiers won’t enter the competition until a later round.
So, is it really fair that clubs competing in Europe get preferential treatment because of their European exertions? If the SPFL are looking to make their League Cup more competitive, then they should treat every club the same, but to do that would hamper the clubs participating in continental competition. It wouldn’t be fair to be reward the previous season’s successful clubs by adding to their workload.
The proposed change would also mean that the competition would conclude in October or November, rather than its current March end date. It is yet to be seen whether or not this would be a good move as trophy winning finals surely should not be early/mid-campaign. Major trophies should be won towards the end of the season, not only a few weeks into it.
Furthermore, this could potentially mean a domestic Cup Final in winter! That idea seems a bit ludicrous considering how busy the winter period is for many clubs, never mind how cold, wet and miserable it usually is. Will fans really want to go to a Cup Final in the pouring rain, with bitter-cold wind or perhaps in freezing snow that requires travelling on ice covered roads? Imagine the drive home to Inverness or Dingwall from Glasgow on a November evening – especially if your team has lost the match after extra time and penalties. This all begs the question whether or not this would be worth it, especially considering that the idea is to increase attendances.
After all, it is only the League Cup. Sometimes termed a ‘Mickey Mouse’ cup by fans – but only after their teams have been knocked out. In theory, fans of Celtic don’t really care about the League Cup, their main focus is on the League, Europe and the Scottish Cup. However, they certainly do care if it’s potentially the first stage of a trophy Treble. Also, remember how many fans Aberdeen took to their League Cup Final victory last season and the fact that over 70,000 turned out to see them parade the trophy down Union Street afterwards. Would so many people, of all generations have turned out on a cold, wet November afternoon? It must be remembered that the Scottish League Cup does give every club in Scotland the opportunity to win some silverware. This should not be spoiled by ill thought through experiments.
Only time will tell as to whether or not fans, and clubs, will support the proposed changes. Not only with their voices, but their pockets, too.
In the same week that Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor has spoken out on how clubs will ignore the fans at their peril, hopefully, the time has come when fans will have their voices and opinions listened to by both clubs and the SPFL board. They usually haven’t listened in the past, but things change, people change.
MacGregor gave his view that TV deals are prioritised over the needs of the fans and he backs both Hibs Chief Executive Leeann Dempster and Hearts owner Ann Budge on the changes they are trying to make within the game.
The time has come to listen to the new leaders in the game, as well as listening to the fans. At some levels, clubs are listening to — and working with — football fans.
But it is not enough. Fans need to be listened to at every level. That’s the only way our voices will be heard and it’s the best way for the game to move forward.
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