I like my football on a Saturday

Cod Almighty | Article

by Richard Hallam

21 July 2021

Richard Hallam rarely misses a Town game, home or away. Who better then to comment on the recent fixture change announcements and their impacts. 

Casual Diary and I can recount a few stories of travel pain when it comes to following Town. Some of it self-inflicted on the hoof, like choosing the wrong train at Clapham Junction on the way back from Aldershot during our last non-League spell. This led to a sprint through the tunnel at Kings Cross, just making the 23.30 to Donny and us both reviewing our fitness levels.

Much of it has been courtesy of the constabulary over the years, switching 3pm kick offs to 1pm or midday and most of the rest due to TV companies and sometimes a combination. Often we've not got a clue and equally often there's a smell of BS.

I was starting to get used to not feeling angry every second time there was some news from @officialgtfc, then:




So that's our opening game of the season against Bromley, to which we might have taken 2,000+ supporters, no longer accessible by train unless you're a marathon runner. Instead of a glorious summer bank holiday day out at big spending Stockport, now it's a Tuesday night, again making it inaccessible by public transport and finally (for now), two Saturday fixtures moved to a Friday night against fellow relegation victims Southend. Town and Southend fans will of course need a car, a hotel or a lengthy coach journey to make the game.

Why has this happened? Well in the first instance the demon @btsportfootball is to blame. I don't think the club have any direct influence over this, but I'd really like all clubs in the league to take a stand against moving games for TV that make it hard to impossible for fans to travel. How much do clubs get? On a good day an extra 1000 traveling fans could be worth £30,000, do clubs get more than that from a TV game? Even if it's more, is it worth it for the lack of atmosphere and upsetting fans? If I was Paul Hurst and the team I'd rather be playing in front of a packed away end than in front of the cameras.

It reminds me of the away games in the National League last time where the BT Sport sound man had to be adept at tuning out the eff off BT Sport anthem and stewards equally adept at moving pop up banners proclaiming the same.

Onto the Stockport move, apparently they wanted a bit more rest after their late trip back from Southend on Saturday 28th August, Kick Off 5.20 caused by you guessed it @BTsportfootball. Could we have said no to this? If we could we should. Will arriving back 2 hours and 20 minutes later really make any difference to the Stockport players? I wonder whether there might have been any Police influence in any of these decisions: someone please tell me.

Finally Southend. Why? Back in the day, when clubs like Scunthorpe used to kick off at 3.15 to accommodate shift changes at the steel works, Southend used to regularly play on a Friday evening but not in recent years. My theory was that the Essex Riviera had many football supporting residents who would make their way up to Highbury, Stamford Bridge, Upton Park and White Hart Lane on a Saturday.

So who can we blame for this? According to Southend it was agreed by both clubs. That's disappointing to hear and doesn't bode well for the future.

If a game needs moving for the significant benefit of our team and players, that's OK by me, but I'd like early transparency. Please involve the fans

What should happen? Well if a game needs moving for the significant benefit of our team and players that's OK by me. If we are contractually obliged to move it because of an agreement between the league and BT Sport, I may have to live with it but I’d expect our directors and CEO to put pressure on the league and TV company to take fans much more into account and make sure that the next time a TV deal is done, that fans first is part of the deal. Who's league is it anyway: isn't it the member clubs?

What else could go wrong? At some point during the season especially if we are successful, a Police force somewhere will try to spoil our party. If its Humberside Police for a home game I'd hope that the club's improving relationship with them will minimise the chances of a 3pm becoming a 1pm, but I'd at least like a level of transparency from the club that tells me that it is the police that have asked for a change and that they've considered the request, at least discussed it and possibly even objected. I’d also like more early transparency on every proposal for a change of kick off time or day. Please involve the fans.

On a side note, I wonder who'd win between a police request for a change of kick off to 1pm and a BT Sport one for 5.20 for these two fixtures?

  • Saturday 30th October Grimsby Town v Notts County 3pm
  • Saturday 4th April Chesterfield v Grimsby Town 3pm

Just call me Mystic Meg if these change. There are more "at risk" games.

Whether you believe football is for the fans or fans are customers of businesses surely the people handing over the cash should be first in the queue when it comes to changing times and dates.

To close here are a few notes for the powers that be:

  • Its almost impossible to get back to Grimsby from a night game by public transport unless its London.
  • Its impossible for visiting fans and GTFC exiles to get back from Blundell Park by public transport from a night game.
  • An early Saturday kick off usually ruins a day out for many and can significantly reduce away support.
  • Early evening Saturday kick offs are usually not fan friendly.

Here's hoping that someone's listening. Anyone flying to Torquay?