Early and Late Kick-Offs
Early and Late Kick-Offs have become commonplace in recent times.
Until about 1990 it was unthinkable for a game to kick off at any other time than 3pm on a Saturday, or 7.45 on a Tuesday. Even if the visiting team was stuck on the motorway or detained for any other reason, the match would begin as planned without them.
In 1983 Crewe beat Exeter 29-0 after playing the first half on their own. The visitors had phoned ahead to explain that they wouldn’t make it on time, but Crewe officials explained that they ‘had to crack on’ as they had ‘a lot on this weekend’.
The only exception to the normal etiquette was that Tranmere Rovers used to stage their home games on Friday nights, but this was an odd business and not discussed much in polite society.
Sky Injects Money, Chaos Into English Game
Over the course of the nineties and into this decade, Sky began a campaign to demolish the traditional Saturday afternoon fixture list, replacing it with a confusing patchwork of games at once-inconceivable times. With flagrant disregard for travelling supporters, the TV bosses have scheduled matches on Monday nights, Saturday lunchtimes, and even Thursdays, which was until recently thought to be scientifically impossible. The irregular starts have led to confusion for fans, players and club officials.
Most famously, Newcastle United failed to show up for three of their matches in the 06-07 season, with the Board of Directors admitting in a statement that they had ‘lost track of this season a wee bit’ and ‘didn’t know whether they were Arthur or Martha just at the minute’. A source at the club went on to reveal in the media that no-one at St James’ Park was sure where they were in the Premier League; they had a league table on the noticeboard which they cut out of The Sun, but it was ‘at least a month out of date’.
Games Start Earlier And Earlier
One of the most unwelcome kick-off trends has been a move towards earlier and earlier games, as Sky continue to cram more and more football into their schedules. Fans’ journeys to away matches are becoming ever more challenging. As of November 2008, as many as twenty Wigan fans are known to be squatting at Fratton Park, Portsmouth, as it is not really worth going home before the next time they play there.
The earliest recorded kick-off came in January 2007 when Middlesbrough entertained Bolton at 7.30am, in front of just over 2,500 people, most of them in their pyjamas. The winning goal came from a bleary-eyed Ivan Campo, who fired past Boro goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer while Schwarzer was buttering a piece of toast.
Results Of Kick-Off Revolution
After fifteen years of kick-off conjuring, Sky estimate that they are three-quarters of the way to their goal of ensuring that nobody ever attends a football match in person.