The Latest Premier League TV Rights Proposal And The Suggestion Of Saturday Evening Kick Offs - The Anfield Wrap

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 20, 2016: A photographer's view of the goal block by a television camera during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield, the 226th Merseyside Derby. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

WE’RE about half way between when matches are moved for TV in January and February.

At some time in the next couple of weeks Sky and BT will have a look at our games at home to Tottenham Hotspur, away at Southampton and at home to West Ham United and have a think about if they want to show them on television, and then, if so, when the match should be played. We can almost guarantee Spurs will move and I’d say the other two are 50-50.

Broadly speaking, I’m fine with any realistic kick-off time, but there are plenty of people that aren’t. Recently it was announced that the possibility of having games on a Saturday night at 7.45pm is being investigated and a lot of people took issue with it. Football is supposed to played at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Well, I think there has to be an acceptance of a changing world. Football is effectively a leisure activity played at times when people aren’t at work – however, we now live in a world where less and less people work at conventional hours. No longer are you operating in a completely abnormal way by having a day off on a Tuesday and going to work at 10am on a Saturday and working until 6pm. Shift patterns are a very regular part of everyday life for millions of people.

As those at the back of The Kop like telling us: “Every other Saturday is me half day off and it’s off to the match I go”. When was the last time you worked a half day on a Saturday and went to a match in the afternoon? You don’t. So why do we have this thought process that assumes that the only acceptable time for football is 3pm on a Saturday and everything else is a rubbish inconvenience?

The reasoning seems to revolve around things like access to away games on public transport and people having to take time off work. And yes, these are valid things with which to have problems with. But why does the introduction of a 7.45pm kick off on a Saturday change matters?

I made this point on Twitter the other week and a friend who disagreed made a point that if we had, say, a Birmingham-based side at 7.45pm on a Saturday you couldn’t get a train back. Absolutely right that this is a problem, but instead of just accepting this, why are we not asking why there aren’t any trains between two of the biggest cities in the country on a Saturday night?

A Borussia Dortmund fan, for example, can go to Hertha Berlin away on a Friday night in January, pay €29.90 and get a train back to Dortmund. The match finishes at 10.15pm on a Friday and they can get a train to a city 304 miles away without changing.

Take our current run of fixtures, for example. From West Ham away on November 4 up to and including Swansea City on Boxing Day, Liverpool won’t play a game with the exception of Everton at home that has trains accessible to away fans. You can just about get a train back from Brighton, but it costs in excess of £100 – who is paying that? We played Chelsea at the weekend and there was one train that connected Liverpool and London after full time – it left around 25 minutes after the match finished which meant that effectively there were no trains.

Trains are already an issue, so instead of using them as a reason to not move games, why don’t we actually use kick-off times as a drive for change for the benefit of fans? West Ham away for example – there were no trains back to Liverpool afterwards. Why is part of the TV deal not going towards funding this kind of thing?

A 3pm kick off would mean you could get a train back but, again leaning towards helping out a minority of people, if there was a train back a 10-year-old scouse kid could play Saturday morning football, go home, get changed, get a train to London, go to the match, and be back at home before Match of the Day is finished.

At present we have a TV deal that sees football fans pay large prices to be inconvenienced. Adding a 7.45pm kick off isn’t going to bring in much more inconvenience but it could be used for our benefit.

I don’t believe “taking time off work” is a reason. Yes, a Monday night game is a problem for plenty of people – but what about the people it works for? Should we just tell them they’re in the minority, stick two fingers up to them and tell them that if you work at the weekend “tough shit mate, you can go to a League Cup game on a Tuesday in September”?

We are limited to four Friday/Monday games this season as is every team. Arsenal will be the first and Swansea in January will be the second, that means we’re probably in for two more – they may even end up as home games. By my reckoning, a 9-5 Monday to Friday worker based in Liverpool has taken precisely no time at all off to watch a Liverpool league game before December 22 and managed to get to every Liverpool game, home and away, in the league.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 1, 2017: A general view of the exterior of the new Main Stand at Anfield before the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and NK Maribor. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

By January 22 this number gets to around two days, maybe one and a half, maybe as much as three depending on how you use your time off. And yes, while it would be preferable if no one had to take any time off to a pursue a leisure activity, some people are doing just that every week.

Why should it just be them who have to juggle things to go to football? Why can’t the 9-5 worker do it once every few months? Yes, Swansea away on a Monday is absolutely ridiculous, but we should be using this as a means for change. You want football on a Monday, Sky? You’re only allowed teams from London and the South Coast to play each other, or the North West to play each other, or the Midlands. You know what Sky would like? Every game on TV. And this is a way of fixing it to our benefit.

If they really want to show Swansea v Liverpool, why can’t they show it on a Saturday afternoon? The 3pm Saturday blackout rule is the reason and it’s linked to all of the above. It is archaic, although well intentioned.

If they can show Swansea v Liverpool at 3pm on a Saturday, show it at 3pm on a Saturday, and put Burnley v Manchester United on at 8pm on a Monday. They can then, if they really want Liverpool on a Monday, have a look at games like, maybe Liverpool v Huddersfield Town? Huddersfield incidentally, played West Ham on a Monday. The lack of sensible thinking around these Monday games creates unnecessary annoyance – but in a way Sky are forced into it.

The 3pm blackout rule exists because there is a belief that it would affect lower league attendance. I do place some value in this, after all if Manchester City and Liverpool are playing each other at 3pm on a Saturday, you live a 20-minute walk from Lincoln’s ground and it’s raining, and your options are “leave the house, get wet, pay £18 to watch a league game against Accrington Stanley,” or “stay at home and watch two of the top 15 clubs in Europe on TV,” it’s a no brainer. But then, what if you made it £5?

If you made it £5, by filtering some of the money down from the inevitably increased TV deal showing every game would yield, would this not increase their average attendance over the course of the season? I suspect it would – you could sell £100 season tickets and have the difference subsidised.

If we’re saying that Saturday afternoon should be the core time then OK, let’s work with this. Televise every game, increase the number of 3pm kick offs the “bigger” teams play, and then make the occasional 8pm Monday game a little more tolerable, with a maximum distance regulation. If you told traditionalists that they could have five more 3pm kick offs than they do now, but they have to take two 7.45pm Saturday kick offs as well, I suspect they’d be fine with it.

We will have played 21 games on New Year’s Eve, of which six will kick off at 3pm. Before their winter break, Bayern Munich will play 17 games and eight of them will be played at the traditional German time of 3.30pm. Why? Well Bayern Munich don’t need to kick off at any time other than 3.30pm to be on TV. The Sunday games after Europa League games over there generally involve at least one Europa League team – why exactly did Huddersfield need to play Manchester City at 4pm on Sunday when the Arsenal and Everton games moved by default?

To put the paucity of 3pm football we actually do play into perspective, I realised that since I’ve moved to London (six and a half years) I don’t remember having gone to a game in London at 3pm on a Saturday. So I had a look and confirmed that I hadn’t, not because I didn’t go, because we haven’t had any. So I trawled back a bit further and discovered that in the last 10 years we have had two. So from about 50 games in London (give or take, I can’t be bothered counting) we have had two 3pm Saturday kick offs. That is staggering.

So, the people who pine for tradition aren’t really being accommodated, while the people on the complete other side of this discussion aren’t really being helped either.

The wider issue of preventing people from watching every game in the Premier League is ridiculous and we’re now at the stage where it’s causing too many issues for it to be viable for any longer. Bournemouth have an away allocation of around 1,300 which means that if a team plays Bournemouth and the game hasn’t been picked by Sky or BT there are 1,300 fans of a particular team in this country who theoretically are able to see what happens in a game of football involving their team. That is ridiculous.

It’s very difficult to please everyone, but it would be excellent if we could try and please more people than we currently do. I’d quite like to have watched Brighton and Crystal Palace last night and for basically no reason other than BT chose to show a different game, the match wasn’t televised.

More games on TV = more money for Sky and BT = more money passed down by Sky and BT.

It’s a very simple equation. The possibilities of what could be done with this money are endless. So instead of telling the TV companies no, why don’t we work with them for the greater good? It might be that if we give a little, probably less than people may think, we’d get a lot back. Maybe even more 3pm Saturday games that people are inexplicably obsessed with.

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Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo

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