TV fixtures set to be announced for new Premier League season
3pm kick-offs on Saturday to become more rare
Tuesday 09 July 2013
Managers and football supporters alike will be left with best laid plans forced into change when the first wave of live Barclays Premier League television fixtures are announced tomorrow.
The true cost of the £3.018billion deal for domestic TV rights for the next three years - which represents a 70% increase - is set to be the ever-changing schedule of kick off times to fall in with the broadcast slots, making the traditional 3pm Saturday start now more rare, especially for the clubs who would naturally pull in a bigger audience.
Long-term Premier League partners Sky will show some 116 matches over the course of the 2013/2014 campaign, which will now also include the 5:30pm slot on a Saturday once taken by ESPN, who lost out in the new bidding war, as well as their Monday night games at 8pm and 'Super Sunday' at 1:30pm and then 4pm.
However, new players BT - who paid out £738m over three years for the games which under monopoly regulations cannot be sold to Sky - will also have 18 "first picks" which are to be shown at 12:45pm on Saturdays and Bank Holidays via their own platforms, which include a dedicated sports channel available on satellite.
For many years now, football fans have begrudgingly put up with the constant chaos of ever-changing start times at the behest of the broadcast paymasters, but this first round of live games in the coming season is also likely to bring the schedulers into direct conflict with managers of both clubs and country as they look to maximize a best possible start to the campaign.
While David Moyes can probably expect his opening game as new Manchester United manager at Swansea to be played out under the glare of the media spotlight away from the tranquility of 3pm on Saturday August 17 - as may well Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge when newly promoted Hull head to Chelsea and indeed Manuel Pellegrini's baptism in English football when Manchester City host Newcastle - there is also the small matter of England's crucial World Cup qualifiers at the start of September.
Ideally, national team manager Roy Hodgson would want all of his squad to be able to report on Sunday September 1 ahead of the crunch Group H double header with Moldova at Wembley on September 6 and then away in Ukraine the following week.
However, while Manchester United's trip to Liverpool could well be moved forwards to a Saturday lunchtime slot, there appears little flexibility with the scheduling of the north London derby.
Both Arsenal and Tottenham, who are likely to boast a healthy English contingent between them, will have a vital second leg of their respective European play-off ties that week, with Spurs' game set for Thursday August 29, meaning the domestic clash at the Emirates Stadium would have to be moved to the Sunday.
While all of the contingencies will be carefully worked through by the various teams' medical departments to help the best possible recovery for the players, it is doubtful whether any such consideration will be afforded to supporters as their own travel arrangements face a rather large spanner in the works.
A spokesman for the Football Supporters Federation told Press Association Sport: "The fixtures have been out for weeks now so fans will be frustrated that it's taken TV companies so long to get their act together.
"Every passing day can see train fares rising, so the sooner fans know when games are going ahead the better.
"Let's not forget that, as the FSF's 'Twenty's Plenty Campaign' points out, away fans are absolutely vital to the TV 'product'.
"The spectacle isn't the same without supporters packing the stands, yet TV shows the match going fans very little respect and often moves games to almost impossible times for away fans."
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