In modern professional football it is accepted that TV companies rule the roost when it come to scheduling games. I have no major axe to grind with this, except that clubs no longer have to contend with the executives at Sky Sports but now we have another, more assertive kid on the block that go by the name of BT Sport.
In most European countries the local football associations and TV companies go out of their way to accommodate their clubs who are playing in European competitions by scheduling games that are covered by TV in order to give that team the most time possible to prepare for the upcoming game.
This is not true in the UK. When Arsenal played Coventry City recently in the FA Cup, the game was scheduled to be played on a Friday night in order to allow TV coverage by BT Sport.
This move didn’t particularly bother me and I’m sure it didn’t particularly bother most Gooners, but it sure as hell bothered the travelling Coventry Supporters who had to make the 190 mile round trip through Friday rush hour traffic. Coventry City management didn’t complain because it netted nice little sum of, I believe, £125,000 on top of their share of the gate. Not bad for a League you might say and no real distress for Coventry as a football unit.
However, if you look at the amount of time allowed to Arsenal to recover from their trip to Italy to play Napoli in the Champions League, before they faced a top of the table clash with Manchester City, well as an Arsenal Fan I’m quite upset.
The rules say that clubs should be given, at least, a 3 day break in between games and it can be argued that the Napoli and City games were 3 days apart on paper. However it wasn’t taken into account that both these games were away from home and involved a large amount of travelling time.
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The Arsenal plane after the Napoli game, played Wednesday, touched down in London at, I believe, about 2 am on Thursday morning. It would have been about 4 am by the time the individual players reached home and being still pumped full of adrenaline, probably 5 am before getting to sleep.
The City game kicked off at 12.45 pm on Saturday. Arsenal had to suffer an early morning start, having to travel to Manchester to face a team who had last played on Tuesday night and therefore had the advantage of an extra 24 hours recovery time, plus City were at home and didn’t have to travel.
If you Google how long 3 days are in hours, the reply will be its 72 hours. If you multiply 24 hours by 3 it comes to 72 hours. This being the case, then why were Arsenal compelled to play a game, the result of which could decide the winner of the EPL, only 62 hours later, even forgetting the travelling time. The answer? – BT Sport insisted on it and the FA went along.
Now it seems that BT Sport are at it again, insisting that Arsenal play Liverpool in the FA Cup at 4 pm on Sunday Afternoon, just 3 days before they face the might of Bayern Munich in the Champions League. It just doesn’t make sense.
Although Arsenal have a game against Man Utd. On Wednesday night, Arsenal is at home to Utd and therefore don’t have to travel. They are again at home to Liverpool and surely this game could have been played for TV at 12.45 on Saturday, the 5.30pm game on Saturday evening or even the 1pm lunchtime game on Sunday. Why did it have to be at 4 pm, the latest game possible?
It’s time the Premier League and the FA stood up to the TV companies and told them plain and simple, that this is not to happen again and that special treatment on scheduling should be afforded to clubs playing in Europe.
Yes, the TV money is great for the clubs involved, but BT and Sky should be reminded, No Football – No Pay-Per-View Money. It’s a double-edged sword that cuts both ways!