Should grassroots football have a winter break?

During a gloomy, dark period of Winter, a game of football at the weekend gets many amateur players through a difficult time of the year

Is the pitch playable?


During a gloomy, dark period of Winter, a game of football at the weekend gets many amateur players through a difficult time of the year, where many struggle to keep on top of their physical and mental well-being.


However, upon reflection, how frequently do these games actually go ahead? We can all think back to endless occasions where our Saturday or Sunday mornings have consisted of nothing but anxiously waiting next to the phone for updates on whether the local pitch is playable for the afternoon fixture.


Inevitably, given the harsh nature of British weather, these winter fixtures are often postponed – if the pitch isn’t waterlogged, it’s probably frozen. The seemingly weekly feeling of a postponed fixture is disheartening, especially given you left your afternoon blank to play football with friends and are not left wondering how to fill a rainy Winters afternoon.


Are there alternatives?


It leads me to question: do we really need to play outdoor grassroots football through Winter, or could there be better alternatives?


In amateur British footballing cultures, many love to watch and participate in games with turbulent conditions. When pitches are muddy, we get on with it. When pitches are wet, we celebrate opportunities for sliding tackles. And when a strong gust of wind blows in our favour, we boot it long.


We’re conditioned to view football as a Winter sport. Domestic professional football starts in Summer and goes right the way through to Spring, the much anticipated Christmas and New Year fixtures are considered the pinnacle of our footballing identity, and the game is then an escapism from the mundane nature of the following months.


Thick mud, puddles or frozen?


But grassroots pitches don’t have the same undersoil heating, full-time grounds staff, or latest technologies used on the perfect pitches of the Premier League. While Old Trafford might look pristine through December, your local pitch is probably full of patches of thick mud and unplayable puddles surrounding the goalmouths.


So, what needs to be changed?


Playing amateur football through Winters seems counterproductive, especially given our summers rarely reach temperatures that make strenuous outdoor exercise impossible. On top of this, children are off school for six weeks in the summer, causing parents to be left bewildered on how to entertain them for so long, all while there’s a pause to amateur football.


If the grassroots League season started in Spring and ended in late Autumn, as it does in Ireland, Norway, and Denmark, which experience similar challenging Winter conditions, we could solve so many of our problems.


Winter Futsal


But a Winter without outdoor football doesn’t mean we should hibernate and resort to watching Premier League football from our couches for months but seek new alternatives to more productively fill the time.


Futsal, an indoor football-based game, is designed to empathise improvements in a player’s technical abilities through the use of a heavier ball and smaller spaces on the pitch.

Given the successes the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and Portugal have seen through implementing Futsal as a mandatory part of a child’s footballing development, and thus developing technically more rounded professional and amateur footballers, it’s surprising the indoor game hasn’t quite taken off here, given our unpredictable Winters.


If Futsal became part of our grassroots footballing calendar, it would create an opportunity for young players to receive coaching that improves their ball control, passing, and dribbling during the dreary Winter months. When pitches are more playable again in Spring, what players learned on the Futsal court could be implemented into competitive 11-a-side games.


Of course, as with any improvements to grassroots football, changes to how we view the amateur calendar will require planning and funding from those at the FA and Premier League with the resources to do so.