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Fans must be considered for Football League play-off times

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Kick-off times being moved for television has been a hot topic in the top flight for years, but now the issue is blighting lower leagues too. This year’s League 2 Play-offs have evening, mid-week or late Sunday kick-offs, inconveniencing thousands of home and away fans. Tom Raffan, who runs the League 2 Away Days Twitter feed explains more…

Earlier this month, more than 2,200 Southend fans made the long journey to Morecambe in the hope of seeing their side win promotion to League 1. Instead they suffered disappointment as they had to settle for the play-offs for the third time in four years. To rub salt into the wounds, the away leg of the play-offs was  played at 6.35 on Sunday night. 

This is a ridiculous time to play a football match and has proven to be prohibitive for a number of Southend fans.

I would certainly have gone to the game if it was at a reasonable time, but as it stands I cannot as my first AS exam is the following morning – Tom, 17, Southend United fan

Tom is not alone in his frustration at the timing of the match. Kay described it as “typical disregard for lower league supporters” while Kevin, who travels from a bit further afield (Bolton) is unable to go to the game as public transport won’t get him home until 7.30 the following morning.

This is not the first time he has been angry at the timings of matches and he has taken action before, “I removed the Sky Sports Channels last summer from my Sky TV package in disgust at their dictating of kick off times,” Kevin added.

It’s clear that Sky have dictated the kick off times, and they have put the game at a quiet time as they are expecting low viewing numbers. Unlike Kevin, I do not blame Sky for this; it is a sensible business decision. However the Football League, who ultimately makes the final decision, has a responsibility to respect supporters of its clubs.

It is important that the whole of English football is strengthened, not just the Premier League, and televising the play-off games does go some way to doing this, however this total neglect of League 2 fans, who drive the game from the bottom up, completely undermines this.

It must be noted as well that it could have been a lot worse for Southend fans. When the play-off dates were released it was equally likely that they could have been sent down to Plymouth at the same time, meaning that they would not have returned home until the early hours of Monday morning. Stevenage fans are not happy either, as they will be visiting Roots Hall on Thursday evening.

 The timing of the second leg is awful being on a weekday night for a huge match of massive importance to both clubs. The last train leaves at 11pm so if the game goes to penalties I’ll be forced to miss them. – Peter, Stevenage fan

The Football League must realise that fans do exist in League 2, and must ensure that they are considered, as well as the Football League’s bank account, when deciding on the timings for play-off matches.

The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don’t necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to the FSF.

Thanks to Laurence Horton for the image reproduced under CC license.

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