Football. A juggernaut of greed and self-importance. A reckless behemoth which has sucked every penny of cash, every ounce of the public consciousness, out of the sporting biosphere and into its insatiable jaws.
The wretched sport has one saving grace. Each midsummer, its relentless grind and hyperbole finally takes a pause, and we cricket fans can enjoy a few blissful weeks to ourselves.
But perhaps not for much longer.
UEFA president Michel Platini, as you may have read, is reportedly discussing a reform of the football calendar which is every cricket lover’s worst nightmare: a season which runs from March to October. Had the idea been suggested a year ago – and Platini first proposed it in 1998 – we could probably have laughed it off. But the Qatar 2022 World Cup has changed the landscape. Anything could happen now. And what soccer oligarchs want, they almost always get.
Summer football would, surely, drive a bulldozer through our game. Unfortunately, for its own purposes, the rationale is utterly logical.
As Paul Hayward of the Observer points out in a fascinating article, there’s nothing about football which particularly lends itself to winter.
It only developed an autumn-spring season in the first place to protect public school pitches for cricket in the summer term. Winter is cold and wet, and unpleasant for both players and spectators – which almost certainly deters youngsters. The wind and muddy pitches hinder the development of skills.
Far nicer to play in summer, if only for the lighter, milder evenings. Which is why one mini-league in Durham has already switched to a mid-year season, and the FA rule against such arrangements has been quietly dropped. In Britain it virtually never gets too hot for football, even in July and August. Spain and Italy are another matter. They resisted Platini’s first proposal for a season switch in 1998, and may yet come to our rescue.
There are three reasons why UEFA’s dastardly scheme spells disaster for English cricket. First, exposure. As it is, in a World Cup or Euro year, we only get five weeks’ respite. Football all summer, every summer, would exert the same stranglehold over TV and press coverage which it does in winter. Cricket would be driven into the sea. Will Sky really devote so much money to our sport when they don’t need it to fill their schedules? Cricket would become an inconvenience to them.
Second, spectators. Premiership and test match tickets are similar in price, but football is shorter and more convenient. You don’t need to take a day off work.
Third, and worst, grass roots. Leisure time, volunteers, and facilities are in short enough supply as it is. How would schools find time for both football and cricket during exam season? What about pitches? Most councils and sports clubs use the same field for both games.
Cricket already competes with tennis, golf and flat racing during the summer. But these are generally isolated marquee events – Wimbledon, the Open – unlike the incessant weekly grind of league football.
You might say – if cricket is so damn brilliant, it will fend for itself. And if it can’t, that’s because it doesn’t deserve to. Survival of the fittest. But this is not a fair fight. The selection is far from natural. Football wields a power vastly beyond the scope of English cricket’s. Its allies extend from corporate giants and media magnates to the Caesar-like plutocrats who own most of our Premiership clubs.
But many cricket lovers also follow football. And vice versa. Ultimately, we’re the ones who buy the TV subscriptions, run the recreational clubs, and buy the merchandise. We have a voice. It’s usually ignored, but just in case anyone asks you, tell them – no. Not now, not ever. Summer belongs to us. Keep it sacred. Protect cricket.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Chapman, The Full Toss. The Full Toss said: https://www.thefulltoss.com/2011/01/27/keep-summer-sacrosanct/ […]
Couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, the rest of the world won’t give a toss as we’re the only country to play both sports at a high level – football doesn’t hold much sway in other Test-playing countries (with the possible exception of South Africa) and cricket barely registers on the radar in the big footballing powers of continental Europe and South America.
Summer football’s already happening in some countries (Russia and the Scandinavian countries, for weather reasons, and Ireland and the US, to avoid clashes with established sports). However it’s a long way from ever happening in the major countries. We need to make sure any change for the Qatar World Cup is a one-off!
Yep, one of the reasons Sky are keen on cricket is that it fillls the schedules when football is not on – i.e. the summer. If this schedule change happens I predict that cricket in this country will become a lot less valuable to Sky as a “product”. Probably be good financial news for any winter sport though (rugby?).
Currently English cricket is set up in such a way that it needs every penny of Sky’s £300m to survive. Very risky.
On reflection, it’s a nightmarish vision, but is it really likely to happen? Club football rules and European football generates most of the world’s football money, chiefly the big 3 leagues. I’m pretty sure La Liga and Seria A wouldn’t want this change for reasons of climate. I’m less sure about the English Premiership, but they might think “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Would they want to play football in the summer when there are so many other distractions, such as holidays?
If I had to bet money on it I’d say there was more chance of football expanding to 11 months of the year than leaving four months (November to February) footie free.
Prior to the decision as to where the football world cup would be held, other sports including cricket were supporting England’s joke bid.
As you say football is a “juggernaut of greed and self importance.”
Even last year not only was the media taken over by football, but it was everywhere else too. The school newsletter was full of football even when the teacher who writes it has absolutely no interest in the game. The amount of bullying to force people to football is appalling and would not be allowed in any other area of life.
Can you imagine what it would have been like if we had been subject to that nightmare? And yet other sports, including at least some from cricket were supporting it. Cricket would have had one summer totally destroyed and would permanently have lost some support then.
The move to summer football would be really bad news for cricket. No question.
We are told what to think in so many areas of life. Will anyone listen to objections. After all, complaining about football is just not PC.
If you want to be positive, the BBC might be able to bid for some cricket. Sky will certainly pay a lot less
The odds must be against in happening as it would involve so much upheaval, but when football overlords get the bit between their teeth, it’s very hard to stop them. One factor mitigating against it, as Jon says, is that during the summer TV viewing figures fall, because people go out, and are on holiday. That would be bad news both for broadcasters and advertisers.
Will anyone listen to supporters? Well, some football fans would probably support the idea anyway. Followers are usually ignored, but not always – for example with the furore over Game 39.