Friday, February 26, 2010

Pitch in

Maybe we should be welcoming landscape gardener supreme Jim Farry back to head a taskforce. As a man who seemed much more suited to the role of local park keeper than modern day football administrator, he'd be perfect to head up the SFA's PISH (Pitch Is Shocking, Help) committee.

With the lower divisions facing what is invariably known as a fixture headache, St Johnstone's head groundsman suspended pending the outcome of an inquiry into last week's late call off and Motherwell only being allowed to play Kilmarnock on Saturday by the skin of their teeth, Scottish football is sending out the clearest of messages to this harsh winter: "We cannae cope wi' you."

Is summer football the answer? I'm not convinced. We're already struggling to cope with modern football, moving out of synch with the major European leagues might not help. With English football getting blanket coverage across the UK, I think there is a risk that it would be difficult for a completely rejigged football calendar in Scotland to win the PR battle for hearts and minds.

A winter break seems manageable elsewhere but, again, carries risks. Scottish football has little enough momentum as it is without taking an extended break in the middle of the season. There's also a question of how you would time a break. A Scottish winter is an unpredictable beast.

But there is a problem and we do need to address it. Undersoil heating has a role to play but the last few weeks have proved that it is unreliable and, when required for an extended period, it really harms the pitches. It's also an expensive solution that our clubs can ill afford.

I do question why we needed full midweek fixture cards in both late December and early February. The scheduling of the Cooperative Insurance Cup so that semi finals are played early in the New Year is also of questionable worth.

An old hobby horse of mine, the return to the days when a home game was followed by an away game, would also give pitches more time to recover and allow groundsmen to properly schedule the work they need to do rather than simply trying quick fixes to allow two or three matches in a row to take place over the space of 10 days.

I suppose in essence I'd like to see a more common sense approach to the fixture list adopted before we take the giant leap to summer football.

We can all rest assured though. If the powers that be decide to act then you can bet your bottom dollar that whatever action they take will only make our problems worse.

Interested to hear other views on this. Is summer football the answer? Is there a danger of overreacting to a freak winter? How can the fixture list be scheduled to ease the problems? Let me know.