At the recent EFL Fan Forum in Birmingham last week, there was one issue that constantly concerned the gathered supporters throughout the evening, the scheduling of games and the changes forced by television.
Due to the multi-million pound commercial benefits of TV rights for the league and clubs, consideration for any inconvenience that match-going football supporters may suffer is always unlikely.
EFL’s Competitions Manager Paul Snellgrove at the forum, understandably described the process of compiling the EFL fixture lists as “trying to spin 24 plates” in terms of keeping all the teams in a league happy.
Once they initially create the fixtures for the season, they then have the “ability to tweak fixtures, once they have been compiled.” Beyond that, it’s largely in the hands of the TV companies to dictate what happens.
Snellgrove pointed out the commitment to the five-week notice period for TV game scheduling, although Premier League team supporters haven’t been so lucky recently and some have been left out of pocket due to late changes.
The recent double switch of the forthcoming Norwich vs Aston Villa game on April 7th was brought up, which MOMS had previously spoken to Sky TV about.
“That game was a one-off,” said Snellgrove, before adding that Sky had asked the clubs concerned if they were willing to accept the second amendment to the kick-off time.
When it came to what considerations were given to the travelling away support for long distance matches that were switched to mid-week or evening kick-offs, the elephant in the room was brought up of what EFL Chief Exec Shaun Harvey labelled, at the end of last year, as ‘conscious scheduling decisions’.
“We make that scheduling choice to get bigger games at weekends because that provides better atmosphere and increases gate revenue for clubs,” Harvey told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“The flip side is that those games that are at a distance have to go into midweek.
“It is a deliberate act – but the reason for it is to ensure we get bigger crowds at weekends rather than lower crowds in the midweek.”
Snellgrove pointed out that the statistics point to attendances of midweek games being between 15% to 20% down on Saturday fixtures, as a rule.
So Championship fixtures like Villa vs Blues or Villa vs Wolves, will remain weekend features, while trips to places like Sunderland and Plymouth will always have midweek potential.
The future of midweek fixtures look like they will be further impacted on with the iFollow streaming service being opened up to UK and Ireland residents next season. Supporters of all EFL clubs will get the opportunity to live stream any league match that doesn’t take place on Saturday at 3pm or is on Sky.
For a Villa supporter, that service may potentially become more attractive than a schlep up to Newcastle on a Monday evening, to see a game where the last train back to Birmingham actually leaves before the game kicks off.
While the EFL and Sky TV are never likely to grant football supporters any real concessions, maybe a basic rule of thumb guideline of convenience can be implemented?
As MOMS has said previously, one way to highlight when a game is inconvenient, is that it should be possible for a supporter to catch a train back home after a game to return to their team’s home city/town.
Surely it’s the least that can be done?
Click following link to see what else was discussed at the EFL Fan Forum
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