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Could we go back to winter football for a season in the League of Ireland

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It won’t happen and I suspect it wouldn’t get widespread support but I’ll ask the question anyway. Should we use the current impasse in our league that COVID-19 has dictated to consider switching back to a winter soccer season?

The immediate advantage of such a move would be that it would allow us to start a full new campaign this autumn. The 2020 summer season, which had been in its infancy when things shut down, could be aborted. We could return with a 2020-21 campaign.

Personally I’d be in favour of such a move. Having had summer soccer since 2003, I have to admit that my favourite seasons were the ones before that, when we had a traditional autumn-to-summer season played through the winter.

I enjoyed lots of things about winter soccer. I liked wrapping up against the cold to go to the game, battling the elements to cheer Bray Wanderers on. I enjoyed the fact that our league was in synch with England’s and the other leagues in Europe. I liked the away trips better – they felt like more of adventure in the cold and dark than they do in the warmth and light.

More than anything else though, I miss the friendlies. Come July or August we could have between six or eight friendlies in Bray. Forget about the occasional marquee name like Blackburn or Newcastle gracing the turf at the Carlisle; it was the chance to see lower-league opposition from England and Scotland that floated my boat. Port Vale. Crewe Alexandra. Cowdenbeath. Queen of the South.

The arguments that heralded the arrival of summer soccer haven’t been fully realised in the intervening years. We haven’t seen the expected growth in crowds. The GAA and other traditional summer sports have been a thorn in the side of summer soccer. Progression by our European-competition representatives has only been marginally better than before.

Does all this mean that summer-soccer has been a mistake? No; it has been an experiment worth trying. But there was a case for reverting back even before COVID-19, and that case has grown stronger now.

Like I said at the outset, it won’t happen. But I can dream. Of a future where we have switched back and I can wear the extra layers needed to keep out the mid-winter cold as I help my fellow fans clear snow off the pitch to ensure the game that day goes ahead. The referee will bring an orange ball.

Brian Quigley

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