The Scottish FA will commission an in-depth feasibility study into potential alterations to the fixture calendar for both the professional and non-professional game.
The move comes after a rigorous discussion with all stakeholders during the latest Council Debate at the Hampden Park Auditorium.
The study will be initiated after approval from the Professional Game Board and Non-Professional Game Board.
“I believe it is important that we take a serious and evidence-based look at the fixture calendar,” said Scottish FA President, Campbell Ogilvie.
“I understand there are many reasons for and against any changes such as a move towards ‘summer football’, an earlier start to the season or a winter break, but it is important we understand fully the current situation and the possible benefits of a realignment of the fixture calendar.
“I was encouraged by the willingness shown by everyone at the Council Debate to take the issue forward in the hope of a solution that appeals to the clubs, the fans, the players and the sponsors and that is why we have decided to commission the study.”
Members from across the broad spectrum of the Scottish game contributed to a lively and thought-provoking debate. They were joined by four panellists from across the game: Sheila Begbie, Scottish FA Head of Girls’ and Women's Football, Stuart Lovell, from PFA Scotland, Greig Ingram, from Supporters Direct Scotland, and Iain King, Head of Sport for The Scottish Sun, who is also heavily involved with East Kilbride FC.
As part of the Scottish FA’s commitment to transparency, supporters were also able to take part via an interactive twitter discussion.
In broad terms, the recreational and non-professional game is receptive to the idea of a change to the fixture calendar, to avoid the backlog of fixtures when pitches are unplayable. The quest for greater access to existing facilities, largely contained within schools, was also discussed, with the Scottish FA’s new Facilities Manager, Cameron Watt, central to that objective.
Scottish Women’s Football and the Scottish Youth FA have already embraced a March to November calendar and spoke of its instant benefits. “The rise of the Scotland Women’s National Team and the success of Glasgow City in reaching the last 16 of the Champions League were made possible by the change, with players getting the chance to pay more often in weather and surfaces conducive to good football,” said Sheila Begbie, Head of Women’s and Girls’ Football.
The senior professional game is more complex and while full integration to a March to November season is more difficult to implement for various reasons, there was a positive discussion on a potential earlier start to the campaign, which could facilitate the return of a winter break.
“There are many areas that require further discussion but it is encouraging that at all levels of the debate there is a willingness to look at positive changes,” said Ogilvie. “The in-depth study will provide statistical evidence before we look at the next steps.”