Kicking Off About Kick-Offs: Is It Time To Bin The 12.30?
by Gareth Roberts
AND so as the book thankfully closes on another round of international football boredom, the pages lay bare on more Premier League stories ready to be written – starting at Anfield on Saturday.
The 243rd Merseyside Derby and all that brings. It’s still different and still special. A shame, then, that it kicks off at 12.30. Who likes that time? Who wants that time? What’s the point in that time?
Nothing about a 12.30 kick off is good. It’s too early. Crowds are often sleepy. The atmosphere isn’t as good. It’s the wrong time for a pre-match bevy and you emerge from the ground when you should be going in it. Is the actual football even as good at that time of day?
Fans are always romanticising games “under the lights”. How many matches are in folklore from when we’d barely digested our bacon and eggs?
We know managers, and in particular our very own Jurgen Klopp, aren’t fans of matches at that time (particularly after an international break). We know, too, that players don’t like them either because it messes with their sleep routines and pre-match meals. So again, why?
The coppers get involved sometimes, we know that, sticking their beak in and insisting “high-risk” games are moved to that slot because apparently anyone who fancies getting blind drunk at that time of day will struggle to do so. (Newsflash, they won’t.)
It’s also one of the slots that “The Premier League” sells as part of the broadcast packages it offers for tender to the telly companies. This is where I’m struggling.
Given all the above, why are the suits seeing that as a good option? Why don’t they listen to the supporters, managers and players that think it’s crap and have a re-think?
Oh, ”it’s good for Asian markets” we hear, without any concrete proof that it’s actually good for Asian markets. How many watch at 12.30? How many are watching in the other slots? What is the big difference financially and can you explain it to us so we have a better understanding of why we persist with this fuckery?
Isn’t there a bit where we (they) consider the people here; you know, the ones supporting their clubs in their cities in their country; providing the noise, the passion and the backdrop which Covid football so starkly demonstrated is definitely central to “the product”.
Middlesbrough fans with this banner for the game against Bournemouth today.— Football Away Days (@FBAwayDays) December 18, 2021
“636 miles, 12.30 kick off, all fans deserve better” 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/OcDcX4U3ou
I don’t think it’s said enough: the people who hide behind the collective mask of bullshit that is “The Premier League” don’t get it on so many aspects of how the game is administered. And this is very definitely one of those aspects.
My go to on the evidence for that particular point is a quote from a few years back from Richard Scudamore, the then Premier League chief executive, who, while trousering a million quid a year for the privilege, said those that “live and breathe the club” should be able to watch their team “not every week perhaps, but certainly on an occasional basis”.
Yeah, cheers Richard, big of you. Out of touch much? These people need to listen more.
It was confirmed this week that the number of Premier League games on TV is set to rise from 200 to 270. Of course it is. The cash cow continues to be milked until there isn’t a moo left in it.
Over two thirds of the 380 matches in each season will now be available for fans to watch. For the first time, all fixtures played at 2pm on a Sunday will be available to screen. Established start times at 12.30pm and 5.30pm on Saturday, 2pm and 4.30pm on Sunday, as well as one of 8pm on either Monday or Friday will continue.
A 6.30pm Sunday slot seems to have been shelved. For now. And thank fuck for that. Another crap idea for match-goers negotiating Britain’s broken transport systems and another plan that ignores what football is to so many - a social occasion, an escape, a good time and a fun time; and something you might quite like to sleep off the next day rather than get up and go to work.
I get that the league and the clubs in it bank a fortune from the TV companies. I also get that there are more people watching football on telly worldwide than there are going to the games.
But there are still about a million people every weekend who ARE going to matches in this country. And where would it be without them? What about them? Look at any televised match and the montages that feature: hats, caps, scarves and the badges, pies, singing, shouting; the ends going off when a goal is scored. Football is shit without US, the fans. So football should listen to us more often, right? Yet it merely pats us on the head. “They’ll turn up anyway.”
Another justification for the nonsense of early kick offs is the 3pm blackout. Games at that time can’t be flogged to TV companies to screen in the UK. Aww bless. How dare we consider that football isn’t just about the all-consuming Premier League. Just scrap it, right? Let it eat everything. Wrong.
As the suits and ties have shown over and over, they give zero fucks about anything other than the bank balances of the biggest and best. They feather their own nest.
Remember Ian Ayre when he belittled Bolton?
"If you're a Bolton fan in Bolton, then you subscribe to Sky because you want to watch Bolton," Ayre said.
"But if you're in Kuala Lumpur there isn't anyone subscribing to Astro or ESPN to watch Bolton, or if they are it's a very small number. The large majority are subscribing to watch Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal."
His logic went that the big clubs should get more of the pot. Ah, the beautiful game.
Football isn’t only about banks and bucks. It’s the national sport here, remember?
Prescot sunset ⚽️#sunsetphotography #sunset #AutumnVibes #prescot #knowsley #cables #picturingprescot #aerialphotography #drones #uav #football #nonleague #stormhour @PrescotCablesFC @NonLeaguePaper @NorthernPremLge @scousescene @CablesNation pic.twitter.com/DYllgCmp9n— Steve Samosa (@stevesamosa) October 17, 2023
Amateur leagues already took a hit from the prevalence of football on TV compared to how it once was. So there's solid evidence that the more you stick the big stuff on the telly, the more you will change habits and impact other areas of the game.
More people used to play. More leagues existed. Then TV football was plastered all over our weekends and guess what? Less people could be arsed with grass roots.
It was easier to flick on your telly sitting in your grundies at the weekend than get up, get out and actually play the sport.
The pyramid here is something to be proud of and preserved. It stretches further and deeper than anywhere else in Europe. I for one love it and would like to see it protected.
If the razzmatazz of big games and highlight shows were readily available (because not everyone is rebel enough for IPTV) it’s not a leap to say it could impact the more casual of lower league and non league watchers. And at that level every click of the turnstile counts.
Have you ever just randomly gone to watch a game of football away from the Premier League? You should. There’s a lot to be said for it.
The Premier League is rich enough as is. So instead of obsessing over televising in a slot that is sacrosanct for the lower leagues and non-league, why not move the Premier League games on a Saturday to 5.30?
It feels like an obvious answer at this stage. It means people could support their local club lower down the food chain AND watch the big boys on telly. And for those that attend the Premier League matches, they get a prime slot for atmosphere, culture, bevvying and everything else. It’s got to be better than 12.30.
We all get a kip, players included. They don’t have to force chicken and pasta down their necks when the cockerel is crowing. And “the product”, surely “the product” would be better too?
I’m glad that’s off my chest. Meanwhile, Klopp is now facing a FOURTEENTH Saturday dinnertime Premier League kick off straight after an international break since he started managing the club.
That follows the news that the Manchester City game in November has been moved to that slot. As you’ve no doubt heard, that’s double the number faced by any other Premier League club in the same period. Tottenham and Chelsea have played six. Manchester United five. Manchester City four.
Man City-Liverpool on Nov 25 to kick-off at 12.30pm. Third time this season Jurgen Klopp’s side has been in that slot immediately after an international break. It will be the 14th occasion immediately after an international break since Klopp took over. Spurs, with six, are next.— paul joyce (@_pauljoyce) October 13, 2023
I’m not quite at the stage of constructing headwear out of tinfoil but the optics aren’t great, are they? And to avoid questions of integrity or lack of around this issue, why aren’t the picks in that slot made fairer?
Have you heard these TV pricks though? Of course there was that twat Des Kelly, the man who once 'joked' about Scousers and hubcaps in The Daily Mail chastising Klopp on air.
But get on this: Andrew Georgiou, President of Sports at Discovery gave his thoughts on the decision to have more Saturday 8pm games.
Speaking to The Times, Georgiou said: “We are happy to have the 12.30 kick-off that we purchased as part of the package but the reality is the clubs and the league have agreed that if there is a club playing in the Champions League on a Wednesday night they cannot play in the 12.30pm Saturday kick-off.
“At 12.30pm on the Saturday, it's perfect for us, it's our time slot. Unfortunately the Premier League and the clubs have agreed that if that happens it can't start at 12.30pm so we have to find another slot.
“I don't think we can be asked to change our picks. What we have to do is find out the best time-slot to accommodate the club's needs and our needs in terms of which matches we pick.
“I don't think we should be expected to change our picks on the basis of who is playing on a Wednesday night.”
Entitlement much? I mean, we’re jumping the shark here aren’t we? Why is the tail wagging the dog?
The clubs can clearly have some say here, so why don’t they? Lads, it doesn’t look fair. Make it look fair. Stop fucking about. Bin the shit slot. Or make the shit slot fairer. How hard can these things be?
And don’t tell me these things can’t change or issues can’t be forced.
“The Premier League” didn’t want a £30 cap on tickets for away fans. We have one. And that’s down to supporters getting organised, protesting and making their feelings known.
The Germans have protested against kick-off times. They’ve managed it, so why can’t we?
Have a think anyway. Meanwhile, suck up another 12.30. That’s enough for this week. See you next time.