Fans respond to 2017/18 PL fixtures

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A working group set up under the auspices of the Football Supporters' Federation, made up of representatives from  Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust and Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly, has been meeting the broadcasters to fight for a better deal for match-going fans. This group was formed at, and reports to, the 20 fan reps who make up the Premier League Structured Dialogue group. Tim Rolls (Chelsea Supporters' Trust) explains more on behalf of the working group...

Fixtures for the 2017/18 Premier League season were announced this morning and fans immediately began looking at the challenges we will face to support our teams.

Packed stadiums and a vibrant atmosphere are key parts of the ‘product’ the Premier League sells to broadcasters. But anti-social kick-off times, midweek journeys the length of the country when no public transport is available and short notice rearrangements for TV purposes are making it increasingly difficult for fans to get to games.

Premier League fan groups, backed by the Football Supporters' Federation have been pressing the case for fans to be given more consideration when fixtures are being scheduled. Our analysis of this season’s fixtures reveals a number of issues of clear concern. This link shows the detail which underpins the analysis:

  • Fixtures between 25th November and 1st January
                • Clubs play ten Premier League games between 25th November and 1st January, five at home and five away. To put this into context, two years ago clubs played seven league games in this period. This is in addition to potential League Cup and European ties that some clubs will have on 20th December and 5-7 December respectively.
                • This means that over this period, where family commitments and money are at a premium for many supporters, supporters face two league games a week for five weeks. Little or no effort has been made by the Premier League to try and minimize away travel, given that Newcastle United supporters travelling to all five games will face three trips to London in that time, and travel a total of 2484 miles. Ten sets of match-going supporters face round trips totaling in excess of 1500 miles. Inevitably, some supporters will have to make hard choices with regards to match attendance.
                • The glut of games over this period is apparently due to the impending World Cup in Russia. It is unclear why this World Cup is so different from other major tournaments and it is to be hoped that future World Cups and European Championships do not lead to a recurrence.
  • Scheduled Midweek Fixtures
              • There are three tranches of midweek games – 28/29 November, 12/13 December and 30/31 January. As in previous seasons, the impact on away supporters of these midweek fixtures is significant and to be regretted. For 70% of these games, away supporters driving would get home after midnight and for 63% of midweek games there is no scheduled service train home. As an example, Burnley supporters travelling to Bournemouth face a return trip of 570 miles on a Tuesday night, Bournemouth supporters themselves facing a 500 mile round trip to Manchester. 
  • Televised Fixtures
              • The August and September television fixtures are due to be announced on 10th July and a further analysis of those will be carried out at that time. It is unclear why the September and October televised games are scheduled to be announced on 11th August, the day before the season starts. Earlier announcement of these would enable match-going supporters to take advantage of cheaper train fares.

This analysis adds to the report published earlier this year that can be found here (Word doc full report) and here (Excel sheet fixture-by-fixture analysis). We looked at rearranged, midweek and festive matches in terms of timing, distance and availability of scheduled rail services over a five-year period and made a series of recommendations.

The report highlighted several issues, including:

  • The inability of the Premier League to reflect the needs of away supporters when scheduling midweek fixture tranches (e.g. on 13th/14th December 2016, each of the 10 PL games required a round trip for away supporters of 280+ miles).
  • The lack of consideration of the impact on away supporters in terms of distance and availability of public transport when matches are rescheduled for live TV.
  • The monetary impact of late fixture rearrangements on supporters travelling by rail.
  • The lack of co-ordination between the Premier League, broadcasters and rail companies to consider scheduled line closures when selecting televised fixtures and when compiling the fixture list.
  • Membership surveys by Trusts at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea made clear the impact of anti-social kick-off times on supporters’ ability to attend affected matches.

A working group was set up under the auspices of the Football Supporters' Federation with members from Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (Tim Rolls), Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust (Kat Law) and Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly (Anna Burgess) leading this project. The group sought meetings with broadcasters and the Premier League to put the fan perspective, based on the research carried out.

Separate meetings with executives from Sky Sports, BT Sport and the Premier League were held in February, March and April. The issue was also raised at the multi-topic ‘structured dialogue’ meeting between Premier League supporters’ representatives and Premier League executives in April.

Fan reps believed we had made a positive start in getting all stakeholders to recognise the issues. And we believed at least some of the points we put forward were being acknowledged.

So we note with anger recent media reports suggesting the Premier League is considering late Sunday morning kick offs from the 2019 broadcast cycle to meet the demands of the Far Eastern TV companies. Further reports strongly suggest 7.45pm on Saturday kick offs will be introduced from 2019.

None of these proposals were floated at any of our meetings, although we were lobbied to oppose the Saturday 3pm blackout on televised matches – a request we categorically turned down.

The Premier League is keen to promote the idea that it is genuine in wanting “dialogue” with supporter organisations. Yet it has so far refused to commit to a grown-up discussion at the same table as fan reps and the TV companies.

BT Sport, reported as being a driving force behind the push for Saturday night kick-offs, have not even had the courtesy to reply to a request to sign off minutes from the meeting they held with fan reps or to respond to follow-up communication.

Sky have indicated an understanding of the issues facing fans, and a willingness to meet with fans and the Premier League.

The new proposals would cause significant travel problems for both home and away supporters, and we strongly oppose any such moves. The case for effective supporter input into decisions which directly affect us is undeniable. We are determined to make our voices heard on this subject, one which fundamentally impacts on match-going supporters, the lifeblood of the game. We will take whatever steps we feel appropriate to publicise legitimate supporter concerns.

Backed by:

  • Blue Union
  • Brighton & Hove Albion Supporters’ Club
  • Burnley FC Supporters Groups
  • Chelsea Supporters Trust
  • Cherries Trust
  • Clarets Trust
  • Crystal Palace Supporters' Trust
  • Everton Supporters Trust
  • Football Supporters' Federation
  • Leicester City Supporters Trust
  • Manchester City Supporters Club
  • Manchester United Supporters Trust
  • Newcastle United Supporters Trust
  • The Ugly Inside (SFC)
  • Spion Kop 1906
  • Spirit Of Shankly
  • Supporters Direct
  • Swans Trust
  • Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust
  • Watford Supporters Trust
  • West Ham United Independent Supporters Association

If a fans' organisation at your club hasn't put their name to this list, it doesn't mean they don't support it, they might just not know about it. Why not contact them and ask if they'd be happy to give their support? If you would like to add your fan group's name to this list or have any queries relating to this area of work contact Michael Brunskill.