The death of the 3pm kick off
If you were to have a glance at, or rather observe for a long period of time, Manchester United’s fixture list for the coming season, you’d find that, fascinatingly, only a handful of their games will be played at the traditional kick off time at 3pm during the months August-December. Indeed, even once the Premier League release the kick off times for the latter half of the season, it is unlikely that figure would be brought to respectability. It is obvious there is a decline in the number of games getting underway at the traditional start time. In fact, you’d have to wait until October 2nd when United take on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Of course, there is a very good reason for this. The rapid rise of specialist sport channels like Sky Sports and ESPN have led to the equally rapid decrease of games commencing at 3pm; and it comes as no surprise that United’s first six games are all live on TV. That may be a good thing in an obvious way, but it does negate somewhat the ‘aura’ of the Premier League. Combined both channels will screen 138 games, more than any other year; to put that into perspective that’s more than a third of the 380 matches to be played. On the opening day, just six fixtures are due to start at 3pm, with glamorous ties such as the one-dimensional Stoke City versus the, er, one-dimensional Bolton Wanderers.
Call me a traditionalist (don’t), but I’d take a 3pm Saturday kick off any day. Instead, United fans are left watching their team in more peculiar times, a good example of this being this week. While 18 other teams battle it out this weekend, United are left to play their ‘opening day’ fixture two days later. At 8pm. Ooh, Fun. When the Premier League was born in 1992, you’d have the odd game live on TV, but the majority were played at the default time. One of things that make the league so great is the 3pm kick off; but now we’re at a time, as football fans as well as United fans, were more of our games our played on a Sunday afternoon instead.
I raised this issue up on Twitter, and of course, the majority agreed with me. As a fan, the 3o’clock kick off is always the favourite. You could say it doesn’t matter if the team is getting the results, but the game is a sport for the fans, too. It is the greed of the Premier League. I don’t know about you, but I want the 3pm kick off’s back. It used to be a big thing if your team was featured on TV, but now it’s run of the mill. The solution? Televised games at 3pm instead of the ugly 12:45 time. What’s the harm in that?