Should TV dictate the Premier League schedule?

It seems to be a distant memory now… back in the days when a football weekend consisted of every team in the English league kicking off at 3pm and finishing at 4:45pm on a Saturday afternoon. To the younger readers, there was no Super Sunday, Setanta was a non existent word and Match of Day was watched every week by most males in the UK.

The FA cup final was a family day to have the rare opportunity of watching a full football match on TV. People actually went to football games in there area. Manchester United fans were actually from Manchester! (Ed: They still are, contrary to popular misconceptions…)

There is no point dwindling on the past, we are now in a Rupert Murdoch era, the era where Sky Sports rules the roost and tells teams when they are going to play.

The main sufferers of this are the Big 4. And more interesting facts are upcoming to prove this:

Consistent 3 PM kick offs at home are a distant memory for the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea. Now with Setanta in the running, things are only set to get worse as time goes on. Here are some facts to prove how television is affecting top clubs…

  • Manchester United have only had one game at 3’O clock kick off this season so far. (Yes the one with THAT penalty) They will have to wait until November for there second.
  • Arsenal have only had one home kick of on A Saturday at the traditional time and will have to wait until mid-November for another.
  • Liverpool have been the lucky team of the big 4. They have had the luxury of two home league games on a Saturday. That is double the rest of the Premiership contenders!
  • Chelsea’s last Saturday game at 3 PM was a 2-0 win against Tottenham on the 12th January 2008! Their next one will be in November against Sunderland which will be one of the three games at home in the whole year, the other being Newcastle later in the month!

As a season ticket holder at Chelsea football club, I have attended games that have kicked off at 1:30, 2, 3 and 7:45 pm this season and none of them have been on a Saturday. A lot of Premiership teams have suffered with the constant movement of matches due to Sky and Setanta sports. If it isn’t Sunday afternoon, its Monday night, Wednesday night or even as I learnt last year, Thursday night as well.

Now to those who have never attended a football game in their lives, this is luxury. Instead of waiting until match of the day to see what the stadium of the team they support actually looks like, they can watch all of the games live from their living room.

There was fear last year that the ‘blanket TV coverage’ of games would ruin attendances. Stadiums like the JJB and the Riverside are half empty every single week. While the TV coverage increases, prices for the tickets also increase as well. With Season Tickets at a premium, there isn’t much chance for the Carling cup which is at extra cost to fans as it is not covered in the season ticket plan.

But with so much money being put in to the game, how can we stop the likes of the Sky Sports juggernaut? Someone once said, ‘fans are no longer at grounds to support, they are there to make it look good on TV’ and as time has gone on, I genuinely am starting to believe that. You obviously now have the opinion of someone whose club has transformed in to a top 4 team. The opinion of fans outside the ‘Big 4’ would be appreciated.

Football is no longer a sport, it is a business. As much as football fans love the likes of Jeff Stelling on a Saturday afternoon, they are still not showing live matches at 3 om which in the long run is a good thing. But how long will it be until this as well as other ongoing traditions are broken. When will we be watching Saturday afternoon games ‘Live on Sky Sports 1’ or ‘Live on Setanta Sports’? When will the TV domination stop?

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