Henry McLeish: 'Friday night football may return for SFL clubs'

The return of Friday night football, outlawed in Scotland for more than 13 years, could be on the cards for Scottish Football League clubs.

• Fans' favourite: Glasgow's rugby team have played regularly in front of respectable crowds at Firhill. Photograph: Alan Harvey/SNS

Henry McLeish included that among his recommendations when he unveiled his review of the professional game in this country at Hampden on Thursday.

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He also revealed that dialogue has already begun in an attempt to convince police forces (who allow 50,000 people to enjoy outdoor concerts at Hampden on Fridays but balk at a fraction of that number attending matches on the same night) that mayhem would not necessarily ensue if they softened their stance.

"There have been discussions between the government, the police and the SFL about Friday night football," he said. "You can't currently play on a Friday night but you can play rugby and other things.

"The SFL clubs know that on a Saturday (husbands are being] dragged along to the shops and to do other things. Life has changed.

"Up to now the police have said we can't have football on a Friday night because we don't have the resources but what resources would (we] need to watch East Fife versus Brechin?

"It's now time to see if we can get bigger crowds. Let's try it and make it a family night so the family can do other things on a Saturday. The police and the authorities should be asked if there's a real problem about this. If not, let's do it and have some experimentation."

McLeish has also noted that the Bundesliga has the highest attendances in Europe, which is partly due to the fact that admission prices are considerably lower.

Borussia Dortmund, for example, charge 10 for a seat in the magnificent 80,000-capacity Signal Iduna Park. Tickets for yesterday's Hamilton Accies v Celtic match at New Douglas Park would have cost twice as much had it gone ahead.

However, given the fragile state of Scottish clubs' finances, McLeish believes that reducing prices now would be counter-productive.

"One of the problems with pricing is that the game is critically balanced on current income and expenditure," he said. "In a critical marginal situation, all income is vital. For that reason, this is maybe not the time to look at that. In Germany they substantially reduced prices and their average gate is five or six thousand higher than the English Premier League.

"This has been an amazing turnaround so there clearly is some link between attendances dependent on price. For a lot of the clubs in the SFL we need to look at a new football business model: by widening their interests in the community, having more 3G (synthetic] pitches and selling the brand in a bigger way you might be able to generate more income.

"That could then be spent on facilities or reducing the cost of admission. What I'm looking for is the SPL and the SFL being much more creative and innovative. Family-friendly football has been attempted at a number of clubs but to me it's something that should be widespread."

Although he did not touch on the subject in the 106 pages of the second part of his review this week, McLeish made it clear that he would not favour a repeal of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, which would allow clubs to sell alcohol at their grounds. The act was introduced following a riot between drunken Celtic and Rangers supporters in the aftermath of the 1980 Scottish Cup final.

"Scotland has got a wider problem with alcohol and I think the progress we've made in relation to crowd behaviour is something to be proud of," he said. "It's not part of the debate that I would be encouraging."

However, McLeish believes that the increasingly severe winters Scotland has endured in recent years may force the introduction of summer football for our senior clubs.

"What we've tried to do with young people and the women's game is look at when the best months for playing are. That could well be from March through to October. I then thought if we're in the mood for innovation and ideas then why don't we...

"I'm no expert on climate change but if this is an indication of the weather over the next decade..." he said. "So why don't we speak with the people from the Met Office? It would be a huge adjustment to play through spring, summer and autumn but maybe, just maybe...

"To bring on talent and qualify for tournaments, you can't play in our weather.

"There were 3,314 at Motherwell v Hearts - that's fifth against third - in the middle of winter during the week. People say that's just part of the game but should it be? I'm a firm believer that over time the game should move to a more positive weather window but I didn't want to make it one of my recommendations."