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Ticket to ride? Or just taken for one?

Commentary on the (ir)relevance of Premier League fixture release day

Everton’s Tickets Page
Everton FC

Have the Premier League and the television broadcasters ever taken the fans into consideration regarding match organisation?

So just as the summer was getting underway, we were all getting ready at in front of our televisions, tablets and phones to eagerly await the return of football. No not the World Cup, but the release of the Premier League fixtures in all their glory.

It’s one of those moments of the year that gets all football fans excited to some degree. Whether it’s the newly promoted sides looking for a big name or the big names looking for a good start, we all know we’re all looking for the first Derby of the season! It’s that moment we know the season is just around the corner.

Fixture release day is a date in the football fan’s diary almost as anticipated as the draw for the FA Cup 3rd Round, but should we really be planning that far ahead nowadays? The football fixtures not only lay out the season but also give the supporters, especially the visiting fans, the heads-up to organise and plan their trips accordingly.

That is, until the Premier League, Sky Sports, BT Sport and now Amazon Prime decide to sit down in their comfy boardrooms and decide how they’re going to carve up the next few months of the season at a time.

For all the great coverage and bluster the release of the fixtures get, it now feels more of a calm before the storm because we all know what comes next. We’re told x, y and z games will be played on these dates etc, but we all know that’s not the case.

Our second thought is now, will that be moved for TV? There are so many fans who travel the country supporting Everton, probably one of the best away followings in the Premier League, but how can they organise all this when they don’t exactly know what’s happening? It’s not a simple wait for the fixtures now, it’s sadly come down to waiting for the broadcasters to make up their minds.

It’s been the case on several occasions that fans have expressed their dismay over having booked trips weeks in advance, just to be told that the game has been switched. Now this can’t be right surely? After all, aren’t the fans the lifeblood that keep the multi-billion pound football engine running?

Indeed, we see more and more international fans making the pilgrimage to their favourite team’s home stadiums, and then see their meticulously planned trips fall apart when games get shifted for the broadcasters. How is that helping promote the game, or tourism within the UK?

So how can they be continually shortchanged in this way? Surely the fans aren’t happy with the way this is continually dealt with, both home and away?

A small Twitter poll I conducted suggests that 87% of those who voted felt that the TV broadcasters have far too much influence on football and it’s schedule. Add to that, 85% felt that they should try to take fans’ circumstances into account when reorganising the fixtures. After all, how many times have Everton had the early away game in the south recently, or similar cross-country jaunts which either entail an overnight stay or leaving before the crack of dawn?

So would the Premier League even bother to look at a possible solution to this? Wouldn’t the idea of looking at the mid-week schedule of games to ensure, or at least try to, avoid fans having to endure far-flung away trips on a Tuesday, Wednesday or even Friday night? But when it comes down to it, isn’t that just part of football. Isn’t the long away trip what makes football special? Surely that’s what makes football the game it is, the camaraderie of a few beers on the coach or train and obviously a few renditions of the latest Cenk Tosun ditty. Deep down, that’s part of what football really is.

However, that doesn’t really help the fan who can’t organise their schedule because Sky or BT have yet to get their fingers out. How about those fans? Wouldn’t the most obvious solution be for the Premier League and it’s affiliated broadcasters, to get together before the fixture release, and hash it out amongst themselves? Wouldn’t that make more sense, even if it’s for say three months ahead at a time?

At least at that point it’s finalised and done and fans can start making their plans. It’s certainly a better option to what we have now, isn’t it? You could almost liken it to excitedly opening a present on Christmas morning, being eager to get going, then finding you don’t have any batteries, all the stores are closed and you can’t really get up and going for another few days.

There has been the growing feeling among local supporters that with the explosive growth of the Premier League abroad, the entire operation is becoming more oriented towards keeping international audiences happy at the expense of the fans who live within the country.

It’s high time that the Premier League showed that they do indeed care for the domestic fans. The movement of the “Twenty’s Plenty” for away tickets has been widely seen as a positive amongst fans, so surely these major organisations see that supporters have many issues when travelling away. It wont solve every issue in football, but it could be gesture that shows they do actually care. Well, maybe just a little!

Nil Satis Nisi Optimum

Editor’s Note:

Our thanks to Everton season ticket holder and lifelong fan Neil for his guest feature on Royal Blue Mersey this week. Read more of his work here - One Blue’s View.