Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
It would appear Tottenham Hotspur have got themselves into something of a pickle.
The news emerged recently that their new ground will not be ready in time for its scheduled opening against Liverpool on September 15th and the club have provided no new date for when the opening will be.
As a result, the game against Liverpool and the subsequent home game against Cardiff City will have to be played at Wembley.
In addition, if Spurs are drawn at home in the Carabao Cup, they will ask to be named as the away side and it seems their Champions League group games will remain at Wembley too with health and safety issues delaying their move. With test events necessary before any switch, it looks like this is an issue that could drag on for some time.
Whilst this is unfortunate for Tottenham Hotspur and will no doubt hit them financially, it wouldn't normally be a massive problem as they continue to use Wembley until their new stadium is ready.
This is what they will do. Except, that is, when Manchester City are scheduled to play them on 28th October. On that day, Wembley is hosting an NFL American Football match, and that will not move for anyone.
Action Images via Reuters/Carl RecineThis leaves Spurs in something of a quandary: if you believe media reports, the solution is that the City game would be moved back a day, until the Monday night.
Other options were no doubt considered. There was talk of switching venues to Twickenham, for example. However, the rugby authorities soon quelled such notions.
Switching it to a City home game was never viable either as this it was seen to be interference with the integrity of the league. On top of this, Pep Guardiola would never entertain the switch as it would cause a succession of away games towards the end of the season.
Apart from the concerns over the state of the pitch one day after an NFL match, there are more pressing concerns here.
If the game had originally been scheduled for the Monday night, there would have been few complaints. But it wasn't. It was scheduled for Saturday at 3pm initially, then moved to the Sunday. And now it seems, it has been moved again.
REUTERS/Dylan MartinezAs always, then, it will be the fans who suffer. That is what grates in this situation. Of course, the stadium delays will inconvenience Spurs fans. But it is Manchester City fans who have been hung out to dry most by the October fixture.
Away fans, at least those of Premier League teams, tend to wait until fixture changes are announced for television coverage before making any travel plans. Once such changes have been announced, plans can be made safe in the knowledge the time of the game will not be altered. Except this time, the game was altered for a second time.
This is not Manchester City's fault. However, any club has a duty of care to its fans and a club with annual revenues of over £400 million has an added responsibility to meet that duty of care.
However, City's supporter services have already replied to a concerned fan on Twitter, stating that the club is not liable for refunds for travel costs for a fixture switch. This rather misses the point.
In a perfect world, this is where Tottenham would take ownership of the blame. They could have done the right thing and announced problems with the stadium build before Sky and BT announced their live football coverage for October.
Action Images via Reuters/Ed SykesInstead, they waited until a couple of days later, probably only after the press got wind of the problems, by which time media coverage forced them to announce something. Either way, as those responsible for the wasted travel plans of thousands of City fans, there is a case to be made that they should reimburse everyone involved.
There is precedent for this. The Premier League forced Swansea to reimburse Sunderland fans in 2015 after the Swans moved a fixture to do the timing of an FA Cup tie. It was moved back 24 hours, as City’s game probably will be, and Sunderland strongly opposed the move. On that occasion, there was compensation for affected fans. Will there be this time?
Match-going fans have been treated with disdain for a while now, so these developments should not come as much of a surprise.
The modern game is packaged for the majority, the armchair viewer rather than the match-going fan. La Liga could soon play games in the USA, the Premier League could have a 39th game hosted abroad, a European super league is a constant possibility and it has taken endless campaigning to cap the cost of tickets for away fans.
Action Images/Craig BroughThere has to be a limit to how much fans can be exploited. It may well be that the only viable solution to the problem of when to play the Tottenham Hotspur/Manchester City match is to move it to the Monday night.
But if so, both clubs should at least take the attending fans into consideration and ensure the move is as painless as possible. There should be free travel laid on for all travelling fans on the day. One of the clubs should reimburse all pre-existing bookings. Tickets should be cheap.
None of this is likely and will prove the growing disconnect between fans and clubs at the top level, where money is king.
Tottenham fans are required to purchase fresh tickets for the rearranged games with the promise of future credit notes to reimburse them: the new tickets being more expensive than their existing ones.
And really, that says it all.