The Scottish League mid season break is back. Well at least for the clubs in the top flight. After three weeks rest and a week in the Arabian sun for some clubs it is back to normal for fans of the SPFL Premiership. But already there are calls to extend the mid season break to be at least a month, similar to Germany and Spain. Of course money is the major factor for this enforced break for clubs and fans. We abandoned the mid season break back in 2003 after club chairman realised that they need the income during these three weeks of inactivity. And yet many fans during this break still took in lower league matches or travelled across continents to watch a meaning less friendly as they coped with withdrawal symptoms. The Scottish League is starting earlier now early July, little time for a break for players. Fans now have to plan there summer holidays around the European schedule or the League Cup .
Of course it was not always been like this, Scottish football had clear distinct seasons. The season finished in May with the show piece of the Scottish Cup final and restarted in August. There were no European qualifiers, straight into the knockout stages for the top flight teams.
But there was a competition which broke up the league and cup matches and provided light relief from the winter elements, the Tennents Sixes. Introduced in 1984 at Coasters Arena in Falkirk it provided a competitive light relief for players and fans. A televised six a side tournament based on the concept of the Major Indoor Soccer league which was booming during the early 1980’s in the US. Of course the Scottish tournament had professional clubs competing, cheered on with drink fuelled supporters provided an electric atmosphere. The inaugural tournament was won by Rangers before moving to Ingliston for a season and then on to SECC where it stayed until the last tournament in 1993 which was won by Partick Thistle. Of course the big teams of the time won there fair share of tournaments but there were some surprises. In fact Nottingham Forest and Manchester City were invited to play which added some Anglo – Scottish rivalry to the tournament . Where the skilled players of the time Davie Cooper, Paul McStay, Joe Miller and John Colquhoun to name a few excelled in the indoor tournament. There was always a few surprises Willie Falconer and Tommy Turner stood out for their clubs Aberdeen and St Johnstone respectively along with others who became unlikely heroes. The tournament was played in an energy filled arena providing exciting tv viewing on a cold sunday in January.This new experience for fans came at a time when the commercial side of the game in Scotland was still in its infancy. Of course the fixtures became more congested and the clubs became more professional both on and off the park, the financial rewards were in the 11 a side games, There for by 1993, the last tournament, none of the top teams would risk there star players in a indoor tournament for little financial reward. So sixes died of an ironic death; the commercialism of the 11 a side game.
Of course it will never come back for the exact same reasons. a congested fixture calendar and a lack of prize money, but a whole new generation of Scottish supporters will never have experienced the excitement and atmosphere of the indoor sixes. With Futsal on the rise globally and Messi and Ronaldo espousing as to the impact it had on there early careers, not to mention Scotland’s own Futsal import El Bakhtaoui. It does pose a question given where Scottish football is now, can indoor football in either 5 a side or 6 a side form provide a means for developing talent. One thing is for sure many supporters will always remember January fondly for the Tennents Sixes.