Fans' federation slams later kick-offs

Chelsea fans are among those who feel strongly about how Premier League fixtures are scheduled. Chelsea Supporters' Trust has provided broadcasters and the league with some suggestions.
Chelsea fans are among those who feel strongly about how Premier League fixtures are scheduled. Chelsea Supporters' Trust has provided broadcasters and the league with some suggestions.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • The Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) has fired a shot across the bows of broadcasters and the English Premier League, warning them to stop tinkering with kick-off times or face the prospect of half-empty stadiums.

Reports have suggested the Premier League has discussed the addition of a 7.45pm slot on Saturday evenings from the 2019-20 season, which would increase the number of live games when the next broadcasting deal is negotiated.

The FSF accepts that while "fans are pragmatic", further disruption to travel plans could put many off making the journey and damage the atmosphere.

A statement from the FSF read: "Too many games are already broadcast at times which make life difficult for match-going fans, with those having the longest journeys hit especially hard. Broadcasters are reliant on the atmosphere generated by supporters, which goes a long, long way to creating their attractive TV 'product'.

"How do empty stands look? Yet broadcasters and the Premier League seem intent on scheduling games at times which are increasingly difficult for fans to get to.

"Fans are pragmatic and realise games must be broadcast. The Kick-Off Times Working Group... met with BT Sport only a matter of months ago - at no point did BT Sport mention 7.45pm kick-offs...

"Where was the consultation with representative, match-going fans when they had the chance? It isn't good enough."

Sky and BT Sport were awarded the previous three-year domestic broadcasting rights for the Premier League, which are worth £5.14 billion (S$9.03 billion). BT Sport stressed the broadcaster had not made any push towards adding a late Saturday slot when the rights come up for auction again.

At the end of last season, a report produced by members of the Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trusts reviewed the impact on fans of matches rearranged at the request of broadcasters and those scheduled for midweek slots by the Premier League.

The report and related analysis produced a series of recommendations which were set to be circulated to both the Premier League and broadcasters in advance of meetings with supporters' groups.

The recommendations included a review to increase the minimum notice period of six weeks for Premier League match kick-off time rearrangement.

Other suggestions were the better planning of fixtures involving clubs at opposite ends of the country to minimise the impact on travelling fans, and working with train companies over special services.

Later kick-off times will also affect fans in Singapore, with matches beginning as late as 3.45am Singapore time.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Fans' federation slams later kick-offs'. Print Edition | Subscribe