BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Never mind the winter break being proposed as part of the League Cup revamp, Peter Houston insists Scottish football should go the whole hog and move to a summer season.
The reshaping of the cup format means competitive football kicking off in July, allowing for time off in January, but the changes do not go far enough for Houston.
The Falkirk manager admits he would have taken a more traditional approach a few years ago but recently has been persuaded by the merits of a complete overhaul of the campaign after seeing at close hand Irish football.
The League of Ireland switched to a summer season, running from March to November, in 2003 and following a three-year trial period stuck with the arrangements after the FAI deemed it a roaring success.
With the SPFL’s decision to alter the look of the League Cup helping to spark fresh debate over the make-up of the leagues, Houston admits he is in favour of a more radical approach.
He knows playing from March to November will have vehement opponents but he believes it would help teams provide a better product on the pitch for supporters to watch in more pleasant conditions.
He said: “I’ve changed my attitude towards summer football. I was an old traditionalist in many ways, but over the last five or six years I’ve changed my mind.
“I’ve been over to Ireland a couple of times watching games and they play March to November.
“Now, you might get weather like we’re having, the winds and so on, in March or April – you can’t legislate for that – but I’m very much for trying March to November. I would like to see it tried.
“There is a downside to it and I’m talking as a football person, rather than someone involved in running a football club in a financial sense.
“It’s good for the finances when you get more people turning out for games round about Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, and that’s something you would lose. That might not be good for the clubs because they normally make a wee bit extra round about that time.
“It would also muck up a lot of people’s summer holidays, including my family’s.
“So, there’s ups and downs, positives and negatives to it.
“But, thinking about it from the football side of it, you’re likely to get that best run of weather and better games with people coming out to see matches in better weather – sometimes in the winter you can’t feel your toes because it’s so cold watching games.
“I don’t have all the answers but it’s something I wouldn’t be afraid of looking at if I was thinking of ways of trying to make football better. Other countries like Sweden do it as well, and I wouldn’t be averse to trying it.
“I’m sure it would have a lot of opposition against it – there’s a lot of traditionalists – but we’re traditional in a lot of ways and sometimes you’ve got to move forward with the times.”
With Storm Desmond decimating the football calendar at the weekend, Falkirk’s home encounter with Livingston was one of the matches to fall foul of the horrendous weather.
With an artificial surface, however, it was damage to the main stand at the Falkirk Stadium which put paid to the fixture going ahead.
But Houston believes the strength of the wind and the overhead elements should be as much a consideration for referees as the underfoot conditions when deciding if a game should go ahead.
He added: “I don’t think the game should have been on anyway.
“I’m all for playing in the rain, I love playing in the rain. We played Fraserburgh the week before and it was p***ing down and I got soaked, but the pitch was in great nick. There was loads of passing and it moves the ball slicker.
“The wind is the only I don’t like and I’m sure that’s the same for everyone.
“I remember going up to Arbroath, even as a player, and the goalkeeper was kicking the ball out and it was coming back over his own goal. That’s a nonsense.
“For me, it’s not conducive to any sort of entertainment for the punters. I know clubs need games on and all that stuff, but it’s unfair on the public.
“You’re always going to get a slight wind, it’s just part of Scottish weather, but I’m against playing in winds over a certain strength.”