This is not festive fixture chaos we wanted but it's hard to bleat too loudly
This is supposed to be the season of joy.
However, the Government’s decision to limit crowd numbers at major sporting events and the subsequent decision by those in charge of Scottish football to try to swiftly push up the predetermined winter shutdown in the hope it can serve as a successful circuit breaker and allow things to get back to normal sooner rather than later, has robbed us of some of that feeling.
Okay, Christmas has not been cancelled and tonight’s fixtures will go ahead as planned, but by the time those matches kick off, the SPFL are expected to announce the postponement of all top tier games scheduled between Thursday and mid-late January.
With the health and safety of players, staff, and fans paramount, it is hard to bleat too loudly about the decision. Will that stop arguments raging on social media? Oh no, it won’t (come on, it is still panto season). But, whether the government’s re-imposed constraints and protections are right or wrong – and given the strain that is already on the emergency services and NHS, due to staff members testing positive and isolating there is a sound argument for not adding to those numbers – it is difficult not to feel a little deflated.
For many, the Boxing Day and New Year's fixtures are as integral to the festive period as parties, pig in blankets and presents. So, learning that we will have to go without this time around is like waking up to a parcel of socks instead of Air Jordans
But at least the clubs are looking to minimise the damage. Instead of letting just 500 people into the grounds, to create a soulless, echoing backing track to some of Scottish football’s biggest head-to-heads, in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, they have sought solutions.
In bringing the winter break forward, they hope to be able to wait out the Omicron peak, and bounce back with a flurry of football once the fast-spreading Covid-19 variant is wrangled.
They have the option of sitting it out until the Scottish Cup round, knowing that there is a free midweek at the beginning of February to squeeze one tranche of postponed fixtures into, with further scope to delay the league split and even the end of the season by a week if that becomes necessary.
And, while the cancellation of games may dilute the joys of the season for many, the fact that, for once, the SPFL clubs seem in broad agreement, suggests that there is more goodwill than normal.
After the chaos and acrimony of the first lockdown, this time there is at least an attempt to offer some clear and decisive solutions, albeit ones that may have to change as things evolve.
Yet simply pulling the shutters down shouldn’t be regarded as a straightforward decision, especially not at a time of year that is already tough for many and not when football plays such a big part in lives and people’s moods.
The sport has, admirably, done a lot to highlight mental health issues, aware of the part last season’s shutout impacted on cases, with many struggling to recreate the camaraderie and endorphins of match day elsewhere in their lives.
Finding the perfect solution is never easy. Especially not in a pandemic. But, being a team player and offering support should never be confined to match day. Maybe the joy is in people remembering that and ensuring we all find a way of making do with socks.