Everton vs Newcastle rescheduling is the latest slap in the face for Premier League fans
Constantly changing fixtures are a nightmare for travelling supporters and the Premier League simply doesn’t care.
It’s the same thing every few months. Televised games are announced, games are moved and rescheduled to any given day over a weekend.
It’s not an ideal system by any means but, given the havoc European commitments and the latter stages of the FA Cup can cause not least an inherent inability to foresee dead rubbers and vital fixtures in the run-in, it’s understandable and unfortunately the only practical way in the modern game. It’s also certainly better than the shambles of organisation in other leagues, La Liga for example.
Football fans have largely accepted this state of play. Any regular traveller knows full well never to assume a 3pm Saturday kick-off and not to book their travel arrangements until televised fixtures are announced.
Changing the rules
What is not acceptable is breaking with this convention. The Premier League and Sky Sports are aware of this. Their rescheduling of Everton vs Newcastle next month is just the latest egregious example of their disregard for travelling supporters, who are such an asset of the product they sell.
In late February, the televised fixtures and changes were announced for the weekend of April 20th. It was decided that Arsenal would play West Ham on the Monday night slot. For travelling Newcastle fans, they could safely assume their team would play at 3pm on the Saturday, as had been announced by the Premier League.
However, with Arsenal likely to progress to a Europa League semi-final that week – a surely foreseeable outcome – their fixture against West Ham had been moved forward to earlier that weekend, leaving a televised Monday night slot free.
Last week, it was announced Newcastle’s trip to Everton was moved to that slot, long after hundreds of fans had booked (often non-refundable) travel and accommodation. That’s not to mention the work or home commitments that might make the 300-mile round trip impossible on a weeknight.
Those in power know that hundreds of pounds will have been wasted by dedicated supporters. But for them, this is simply acceptable collateral damage in getting another game on television.
Newcastle have announced they will refund the ticket costs for any supporters unable to make the match but not any travel or accommodation costs.
However, despite the fact the Premier League have an agreement that they will attempt to schedule any fixture six weeks in advance, they face no consequences when breaking this agreement.
It may well be that television contracts must be honoured by the Premier League but, if that’s the case, they should offer full reimbursements to fans unable to make it at the very least. They have the money do so.
A good atmosphere and a full stadium is vital to the image that the Premier League wants to project to the world. Supporters are one of their biggest assets, and they are being taken advantage of. They will continue to do so unless a stand is taken – and to do so, supporters of all clubs must come together and make it clear they will not accept this.
The last thing the Premier League wants is empty stands, like in Italy, or a lack of travelling away support, like in Spain.
A wider picture
It’s often argued that the Premier League is a great success story of modern England, establishing a global powerhouse after the problems that marred football in the 1980s. Some argue that Margaret Thatcher waged war on football and that the success of the Premier League is evidence of her losing that war.
But examples such as this recent debacle are inherently Thatcherite. Match-going supporters have been hung out to dry by one private company and, having booked trains, will likely be unrefunded and overcharged by another.
Thatcher didn’t wage war on football. She waged war on the working classes that supported it. Increasingly, they are becoming priced out as the game becomes the preserve daytrippers, tourists and an affluent middle class.
The sanitised product the Premier League sells is Thatcher’s vision of football. Working people disregarded and left behind. She won.
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