by Noel Draper
Time. Time has fascinated the human race for thousands of years. It still does. Look at your wrist, look at the bottom right of this screen, press select on your Sky remote, look at your phone, look damn you, look. Time is everywhere. Most people in this lovely world stick to a rigid timescale for everything. Wake up at a certain time, go to work at a certain time, get their car serviced at a certain time. Time. It runs our lives. It runs everyone’s lives.
Well, nearly everyone’s lives, because there are some organisations that seem to think that time has been designed for them and them alone, for them to do with as they please and for them to impose their own timetable on other people. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the television companies, the Football League and the Premier League.
When Blackpool versus Southampton was originally scheduled the time – there’s that word again – for kick off was set at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. A sensible time considering that Blackpool is 263 miles away from Southampton. A journey that would take around five hours give or take. That’s probably a ten hour trip to watch a game of football and it would mean getting back home at around 10pm, which is perfectly acceptable, with the Southampton fan maybe even catching themselves on the television show that showed the highlights that evening. Sounds like a lovely day out and makes me wish I lived in Southampton again just to make that journey. Everyone is happy.
Well nearly everyone because obviously the kick-off time according to television and the Football League made no sense at all and so they changed it. To more than two hours later meaning the game finished at around 7.30pm. Suddenly that five hour journey home has a completely different complexion especially if Southampton lost. Oh.
It doesn’t stop there because they have also messed around with the F.A Cup. Ignore the fact that an all-Merseyside semi final could quite easily be accommodated at Old Trafford – a total round trip of 66 miles – and focus on the fact that the powers that be have decided that their time is better than Liverpool and Everton fans and have scheduled the game to kick off at 12.30pm. In London. On a Saturday. This, of course, is complete madness. It’s ok though as the other semi final is between two London clubs so it won’t matter what time that game is scheduled for unless of course it starts at around 6pm on Sunday afternoon as it could go to extra time and penalties meaning some of the kids, the future of this lovely game, won’t get home until gone 10pm. With school the next day. They…oh right. Well done to all involved.
It’s not just the examples above that the football authorities and television companies have messed around with. They impose their own time on supporters all the…erm…time. A Friday evening kick off here, a Monday night game at the other end of the country there, it never stops but obviously needs to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for football on television, and if anyone actually reads these ramblings you might remember that the other weekend I actually watched quite a few games on the television, much to my wife’s disgust, but there needs to be some sort of common sense involved in the planning.
The companies who make all these decisions, these stupid decisions, need to start paying attention to the football fan again. They need to schedule games that are fan friendly first. A clash between two teams who are close to each other at the top of the table but not geographically needs to be scheduled at a fan friendly time. Not a television friendly time. Games on Sunday need the same consideration as any fan trying to get a train home at 7pm will testify. Sure, if a game hits both criteria of time and geography then stick it on television. Knock yourself out.
The trouble is nothing will change while two thousand fans are still keen on travelling 263 miles to see their club get a hammering. Commendable as this is. We, the fans, need to stand up to the people who run this beautiful game by not going to a match. One match, that’s all it will take. Every fan. Young and old. As one voice. Staying at home and watching it on the television, or in the pub. Anywhere in fact as long as it’s not at the ground. Fan groups can then explain the reasons behind the boycott. Clubs will then take notice and will start advising the television companies about games they want to show and not the other way around as it is at the moment. This wonderful game will then feel part of the people that matter again. The fans.