Football: Later EPL kick-offs a turn-off for fans

Everton's goalkeeper Joel Robles dives in vain as Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey scores their third goal during their English Premier League football match.
Everton's goalkeeper Joel Robles dives in vain as Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey scores their third goal during their English Premier League football match.PHOTO: AFP

Proposal for Saturday matches to start at 2.45am here also has pubs concerned

News that the English Premier League (EPL) is considering having Saturday matches kick off at night instead of the traditional 3pm start has been greeted with dismay by Singaporeans.

Matches could begin as late as 7.45pm local time (2.45am Singapore time) from the 2019-20 season, as part of plans to broadcast at least half of the season's 380 games live on television, according to a report in The Times of London.

The proposal was not received well by Singaporean viewers.

Mark Loh, supporter of champions Chelsea, has watched almost all of the EPL giants' games for the past nine years.

The 20-year-old said: "On average the EPL games are around 11pm and if games are pushed to around 3am in the morning, it will definitely not be beneficial to me.

"Because in reality, sleep is very important. This will mean I will have to change my sleeping pattern and I'll probably only watch the second half by waking up early.

ONLY FOR IMPORTANT GAMES

I think I'll skip. I would love to watch it live but the only time I'll wake up then is if there is a Cup final or a very important match. I'm 48 years old, my body just can't take it.

HENG YONG MENG, Liverpool fan, on why he is unlikely to catch Saturday EPL games on a regular basis if they kick off at 2.45am Singapore time.

"I'll still watch games but not as religiously as before."

Liverpool fan Heng Yong Meng, 48, said: "I think I'll skip.

"I would love to watch it live but the only time I'll wake up then is if there is a Cup final or a very important match.

"I'm 48 years old, my body just can't take it."

The shift in timing was proposed after British broadcaster Sky noted that that television viewership for league matches fell 14 per cent last season, although its mobile video and online live video businesses grew by 31 per cent.

The proposed changes will not only affect local fans, but also the pubs that accommodate them.

Marvin Rana, outlet manager of pub Prince of Wales at Boat Quay lamented: "It will affect us very heavily because we have crowds only when there are early matches around 8pm.

"Our operation times are only till 2am on weekends, so if there are no matches to be shown (during our opening hours) then it will affect our sales greatly."

Rana stressed that the pub screens around three matches on a typical Saturday and an estimated 75 people turn up during the peak hours of 8-11pm.

Apart from the revenue hit, Irish pub Muddy Murphy's voiced concerns about manpower.

General manager Justine Emam, 32, said: "We will just have to strategically plan our staffing.

"We are open for breakfast and lunch so closing up late and opening early will be tough on the staff."

A final decision on the proposal is expected only in February next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2017, with the headline 'Later EPL kick-offs a turn-off for fans'. Print Edition | Subscribe