Summer afternoon matches should be a thing of the past

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The hot beaming sun isn’t comfortable for anyone, let alone a professional footballer playing a 90-minute game. So why does the A-League insist on continuing summer afternoon games every season?

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There’s a lot to be said around players being made to play in temperatures of 35 degrees plus and the effect it has on their ability.

Players have a right to be given every opportunity to play at their maximum potential. If players can’t execute their game at 100%, all you’re left with is an inferior product.

A recent example of the effect the heat can have on a game and its players is this past Sunday afternoon match between Newcastle Jets and Macarthur FC in the A-League Men. With four drinks breaks included throughout game time, the stop and start nature of the contest influenced both teams’ momentum. Those drink breaks were introduced in an effort to assist the teams in playing through the warm conditions.

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Whilst the introduction of the drink breaks were good in nature, it does beg the question of how hot it was to have to introduce them in the first place.

The difference in intensity between the above-mentioned game and Newcastle’s match against Wellington Phoenix the week prior is palpable. After a 4-0 win against the Nix, it was a shock to everyone that Newcastle went down to Macarthur 2-1 despite the opposition being a man down for the majority of the match.

The difference in quality and intensity of this past Saturday night’s Melbourne derby and the Jets game was also extraordinary. Playing later in the evening when the temperature had dropped as opposed to playing in the afternoon when the sun is at its hottest is always going to produce better football.

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The temperature debate affects both the Men’s and Women’s league. Often the A-League Women matches are played earlier in the day, in comparison to the men’s. Five of the upcoming six matches in the women’s league are kicking off before 6pm.

In the case of double headers also, the women’s league also draws the short straw with their matches being played before the men’s.

Not only does the heat influence the player’s performance and ability, but it also deters fans. A measly 2,691 fans attended the Newcastle vs Macarthur match, the lowest attendance recorded for that round.

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Despite Football Australia (FA) having a heat policy in place, they state that temperature alone is not the sole determining factor in assessing the risk of heat-related injury. Further to that, FA’s heat policy outlines that elite level footballers are fitter than the average athlete and their training regimes adapt them to playing in relevant conditions.

Other than putting drinks breaks into place and managing post-match recovery following a game played in extreme heat, there’s no other policies in place to protect players.

Football Australia denotes that the decision to postpone a match is a medical decision based on advice from the team doctor(s) at the venue, so a further question of responsibility is raised, and it begs the question of how hot does it have to be for a match to be postponed?

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Players operating at 100% is always going to provide a better spectacle for fans to enjoy as opposed to playing in energy sapping heat where they may only be operating at 80% or less.

It’s time for Football Australia and the A-Leagues to put both players and fans first and discontinue summer afternoon matches.

Feature Image Credit: Jordan Trombetta

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Grace Clegg
Covering the Newcastle Jets for the 2021/22 season. Studying a Bachelor of Communication (News Media and PR) at the University of Newcastle. Coffee addict.

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