The SPL have announced that Season 2011/12 will kick off on Saturday 23rd July 2011. The earlier start date is part of the SPL’s strategic plan for Scottish Football, to help clubs involved in European qualifiers better prepare for those games.
It also means that a July start date will reduce the number of games in midweek, during the winter months, which could also help with attendances. However the season will end at the same time, and there will be no Winter Break.
The SPL also announced that clubs who are participating in summer tournaments – Rangers and Celtic – can request that one fixture early in the season be postponed to take part in such tournaments.
Celtic have already been given permission by the SPL to participate in the Dublin Super Cup on the 30th and 31st July.
SPL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster commented on his official blog:
• The earlier a season starts, the more battle-hardened SPL players are by the time they compete in the early stages of European completion. Last year for example, Hibernian, Celtic and Dundee United all fell at the first hurdle in Europe. The Swiss, by contrast, seem to punch above their weight in the early stages of European competition. They kick off their domestic programme early in July and attribute much of their European success to their early start date at home. The better that SPL teams do in Europe, the higher the Scottish coefficient; and the more Champions League places that Scottish teams are awarded, creating a virtuous circle benefiting all SPL teams.
• There is no doubt that it is simply a much more pleasant experience going to a game in the warm summer sun on a July Saturday than having to brave the snow and ice on a mid-week February evening – a move that can surely only boost attendances at games.
• By kicking off and concluding our season at the same time as the English, we are diluting the appeal of our games to broadcasters. In contrast, by starting our season ahead of the Premier League, at a time when there is a real shortage of football on TV, we allow our broadcast partners to properly showcase SPL football to the whole of the UK and the rest of the World. And this will inevitably drive more interest (and more broadcast income) in the Scottish game.