Neil Doncaster's Blog - Start date 2010/11
Season start date – 2010/2011
Because of the very public disagreement over the start date for season 2009/2010, it is more important than ever to be transparent about why the SPL has chosen 14th August as the start date for season 2010/2011. That is the purpose of this blog.
Last year, it is fair to say that the season start date was one of the more controversial decisions reached at Hampden Park. The SFA had requested a start date of 1st August. However, a number of our clubs had the potential to play lucrative friendly matches on the weekend of the 1st and 2nd August and wanted a much later start date. While the friendlies were lucrative, the standard of opposition involved also helped test our teams ahead of some of their European campaigns.
To try to accommodate all parties, the SPL announced that the season would start on 8th August.
However, George Burley then declared that if the season were not to start on 1st August, he would far prefer that the SPL started its season on 15th August, to ensure clear preparation time for the Scotland World Cup qualifier on 12th August. As a result, and purely to help Scotland’s World Cup campaign, the current SPL season kicked off on 15th August.
Possible start dates
This year, the SPL Board considered three possible start dates for season 2010/2011: 31st July, 7th August and 14th August. Consensus amongst clubs seemed to be that either 7th or 14th August were the preferred dates.
Some clubs were in favour of a 7th August start date. Their reasons were that an earlier start date gave the SPL maximum impact and would enable clubs to bring in cash slightly earlier. It would also mean one less midweek fixture later in the season.
Other clubs, particularly those who stood a good chance of taking part in lucrative friendly matches over the weekend of 31st July/1st August, pointed to the lost revenue that a 31st July start date would cause, as well as the fact that a number of their players were away in South Africa for the World Cup – players who might be playing football as late as 10th or 11th July.
Whenever a decision like this has to be reached, the one key question that the SPL Board asks itself is this: what is in the best interests of the SPL as a whole?
Answering that question, the view was that a 7th August start date would be of some benefit to the majority of clubs. A 14th August start date, by contrast, would be of significant benefit to a smaller number of clubs.
On balance, the SPL Board took the view that, in this instance, a 14th August start date should be chosen.
Many voices in Scotland have urged the re-introduction of a winter break – and with good reason. Research has shown that a mid-season break can reduce the number and severity of injuries to players in the second half of a season. And, of course, with the ferocity of the Scottish winter, a fortnight’s break can give our clubs’ pitches a welcome break.
Unfortunately, UEFA have decreed that leagues cannot schedule midweek fixture cards against Champions League or Europa League fixtures. Together with the fixture congestion caused by various cup games and replays, and once every two years a World Cup or European Championships, there just is not the scope to fit a winter break into the fixture calendar.
The SPL have been working harder than ever on our fixture system in recent seasons. And our clubs have indicated their satisfaction with the improvements that we have made. Even supporters have acknowledged this. When this season’s fixtures were published, we only received one email of complaint – a marked change from previous seasons.
Setting fixtures remains an inexact science, though. What is important in every decision made by the SPL Board is that we take account of the concerns and interests of all of our clubs. In setting 14th August as the start date for season 2010/2011, I am totally confident that this has happened.
SPL Chief Executive
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