This morning the Premier League announced the broadcast selections for its March fixtures, meeting its deadline for TV picks for the first time since August.
Today’s release means that half of the division's TV announcements this season have now been issued on time – the December, January and February selections were all hit by delays, giving supporters even less notice to plan their travel for upcoming match-days.
The latest TV picks once more present logistical challenges to supporters. Newcastle United fans will have to travel to Wembley for an 8pm Friday evening kick-off against Tottenham Hotspur (a game which could move again if it clashes with either team’s involvement in the FA Cup). And many of the other TV selections for March are also subject to conditions being met, meaning fans face the prospect of matches being moved again at even shorter notice.
Supporters of both Manchester clubs have awkward trips to the capital in store: Manchester City will now play Arsenal away on a Thursday evening at the start of March and Manchester United’s trip to Crystal Palace is now a Monday night kick-off.
Initial analysis from supporter groups of the travel arrangements for a number of games also reveals that there has been no attempt to mitigate the effect of scheduled engineering works on fixture changes, they say. The Football Supporters’ Federation’s Kick-off Times Working Group (KOTWG) says co-ordination between the football authorities, broadcasters and rail companies is still clearly lacking.
The group will continue to monitor the impact of broadcast selections on match-going supporters. Over the last 12 months, the group has met with senior politicians, sought to increase fan input in fixture planning via local authorities, as well as lobbying the Premier League and broadcasters. The KOTWG is also exploring practical ways to mitigate late fixture changes with bodies such as the national Rail Delivery Group.
Kat Law, co-chair of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust and a member of the Working Group said “The fact that almost 10,000 supporters have signed our petition calling on the Premier League to stick to its TV selection schedule shows the strength of feeling among supporters on this issue.
“Match-going fans are vital to the quality of the ‘product’ that the Premier League’s broadcast partners pay so handsomely for. As the negotiating period for the new TV deal approaches we will continue to argue the supporter’s case to ensure its impact on match-going fans is minimised as much as possible.”
An announcement from the EFL of their next round of TV broadcast selections is expected in the next 48 hours.