Fed-up clubs make call for summer football

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The notion of summer football has been pondered at even the highest level of the game as deteriorating weather conditions continue to wipe out fixtures across the country.

This frustration is just as extreme at grassroots level where clubs can find themselves without a match for more than a month as rain, snow and freezing temperatures enforce grass pitches to be declared unplayable.

Steven Binney, manager of Lothian East side Dunedin Athletic of the Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur Football Association (LEAFA), is the latest to express his desire to shift the pattern of the calendar season, his team having contested just six league games in five-and-a-half months.

“We have to be realistic that football is not a winter sport,” Binney said. “There is a lot of organisation where these are amateur people doing it as a hobby in their spare time. We prepare; people take time off their work, make alternative arrangements with their families, and all just to find the game is off either before or when they get there.

“There are so many aspects to it and it’s just a waste of time. We try and encourage players, get people involved in sport and for a whole month they end up without a game. We then have to email them every Friday to tell them the game is off and it is just really frustrating.

“The days are gone with the idea of the old trades holidays when everyone took holidays in July. People have different jobs and just in December there we had players all over the world away on their holidays. That’s my perspective and things need to change. If the pitches are at their best during the summer then that’s when we should be playing football.”

President and match secretary of LEAFA, Charles Gallacher, empathises with the agitation felt by both players and officials and concedes season 2012/2013 has been the most disruptive since he took on his role with the association.

Gallacher said: “I am just as frustrated as the team managers are as we’ve lost, at this point in time, approaching 300 fixtures to the weather which have to be completed before May 31. In 20 years of doing this, I would have to say this is the worst season I have experienced for unplayable pitches. Unfortunately we don’t have enough 3G pitches which are very difficult to acquire, but in our association we are actually quite well off on a Saturday with getting use of these pitches.”

There is a mutual understanding between all concerned that little can be done to counteract adverse weather conditions at this time of year, however, Gallacher reinforces it is neither himself, nor any of his colleagues, who dictate when the football season should be played and encourages any issues to be addressed at monthly council meetings.

“It is entirely up to the membership of the Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur Football Association when they propose the season should begin and end. If the membership said to me they want the season to begin on July 1 then that’s fine, I’ll start allocating fixtures but there won’t be any football pitches for them to play on. The whole structure and system of football pitch availability is dictated by Edinburgh Leisure and local councils so it’s not a matter of choice.

“The managers and club secretaries have their opportunities to speak out at our monthly council meetings and voice any concerns or suggestions on how we can enhance the association. We can have a debate on the issue and I would take it forward as president of the association.”