Filed: Tuesday, 26th February 2013
By: Paul Walker
I donít know about you, but I am getting pig sick with the continued chopping and changing to our fixture list.
Had I forgotten just how bad the continued manipulation of matches by the evil paymaster that is Sky after just one season in the backwaters of the Championship? Or has it just got worse this season as far as we are concerned, than ever before?
Losing the Manchester United game as a Saturday fixture on March 9 because it clashes with the FA Cup sixth round now, was just about the last straw. Not least because it has lumbered me and my lad with £70 of worthless train tickets.
I know that is probably our fault for not noticing the small print when the club website announced an initial change to a midday kick-off time for the match. But booking train tickets early keeps the cost down when you travel a long distance to matches, and we jumped too soon to our cost.
You have to book trains early - driving is just too expensive - or the whole thing collapses because of the excessive costs.
But I cannot recall us being used as cannon fodder for the big boys as we are over the forthcoming away trip to Manchester City, which could be on Saturday or Sunday of the weekend of April 27. And we may not know for sure until 17 days before the game takes place, thatĎs surely taking the proverbial. But more of that later.
What is really worrying at the moment is the fragmented mess that is our fixture programme, and there are plenty of people to blame over this, not least ourselves for not being able to beat Manchester United in the FA Cup. I mean, how hard can that be?
It has meant that we will have had to sit twiddling our thumbs on three blank weekends for the fourth, fifth and now sixth rounds, plus an international break next month. It all means that since the Aston Villa game on February 23, we will play just seven matches in 72 days until EasterÖand only three of those are at home. You could even calculate it as five games in 57 days since the Swansea home match, if you like.
Either way, I donít agree with there not being a programme of matches on Cup weekends. Back in the old days after the third round, everybody played every weekend. Then the fourth round was left matchless, now itís every Cup weekend.
It all puts tremendous pressures on our team at a vital time of the season. You need continuity and momentum now, and players need to be match fit, at their peak. And that, to my mind, is not possible in the current situation.
Take Andy Carroll. He arrived in August not match fit because heĎd been bench warming at Liverpool. Then he picked up two injuries, one for sure because of his lack of match fitness.
Now heís back and desperate to put on a show and be at his peak, and the first three months of this year are going to be constantly disrupted by inactivity. Training or trips to Dubai are not the same, and the way it is going, he will not be considered properly match fit until the last weeks of the season.
Kick-off changes and movement of matches inconveniences the majority of our fans, but if you live close to London it is not so bad, you can cope. But for long-distance fans - yes, I know, a small minority - it means missing games.
Seeing last night's Spurs moved to a Monday night - I bet Sky did that just to see if we can behave ourselves this time around having not covered the controversial game at White Hart Lane - as well as Manchester United now certain to be midweek, means that our two biggest home league games are out of reach for me.
I know this all sounds irrational, and moans from someone who knew the score when he bought his season ticket. But I believe there are more than a few like me who are unable to get trains home after night matches. I am retired now so the days of me staying over are long gone, certainly at £100 for a Travel Lodge. Itís just not affordable.
And I know several folk who travel long distances to games. Euston is full of them on match days. One pal flies from Glasgow, another comes from Portsmouth, for example. Me and my lad travel from Manchester.
Only six home games this season with 3.00pm kick-offs underlines how increasingly difficult and expensive this is all becoming.
But the Manchester City away game takes the cake. Iím sure you all saw the vague announcement on the club website that said it would be a Saturday lunch-time kick-off OR a Sunday 4.00pm game, depending on whether Arsenal or Manchester United reach the Champions League semi-finals that start the following midweek.
I did blink at that, and was bemused by the link with the Champions League. Then the penny dropped. The scheduled games for the weekend of April 27 shows Arsenal v Man Utd. Sky clearly want that as their flagship game on the Sunday, but you can bet that Wenger and Ferguson were not going to agree to playing on Sunday afternoon and then potentially Tuesday evening in Europe.
So potentially shifting our trip to the Etihad Stadium to Sunday is the back-up in case Sky lose their preferred option. Now, even tough Arsenal look like they will not be bothering the scorers in Europe by then, thereís every chance Man Utd will still be in the competition.
And the second-leg of the Champions League quarter-finals is not until April 10, thatís 17 days before our potential trip to Man City. Booking train tickets then will be at a premium, all the cheap offers will have gone.
We have mates who always come up to Manchester for that game, itís an excuse for a few sherbets with our familyís City fans. But nobody from down south is going to want to come up for a Sunday game that sees them not back home until midnight, with work in the morning.
Again, this is just a personal grouse, itís just the way it is. But it is still very annoying to be messed around.
Now we all know that Sky donít care about travelling fans, if they care about anyone, and our club will want to grab the TV fee. Times are hard, as we keep being told.
And, I repeat, I understand travelling fans are a minority, and long-distance fans like me are similarly rare. And I chose where to live in this country.
But the away fans and long-distance commuting fans seem to get the rough end of things. Take the ridiculous ticket price for the Man Utd away Cup replay. Our club would have known about that before the first game, where Man United fans paid just £20. But they chose too say nothing, and had to have the 1,400 allocation for the replay theyíd asked for, dragged out of them days after the tickets went on sale.
There is so little concern these days for the people who actually watch matches. Sky donít give a monkeys, as I was once told by someone on the end of the phone at our ticket office, but sooner or later someone will argue with them.
Iíve seen comments this week on similar subjects on message boards to the tune of Ďwhat would we do without Skyís money?í. Well we used to survive quite nicely, England won the World Cup and the game was a decent spectacle. Anyway, Sky money has gone to agents and players.
West Ham, if they do finally get the Olympic Stadium - now stop laughing, you lot - will want every fan coming through the gates that they can get.
But just watching my favourite club these days has become an increasingly annoying obstacle course, I just hope I can still afford the travelling and the tickets to see Stratford happen.
Donít hold your breath, though.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
by Johhny Byrne's Boots
07:12PM 7th Mar 2013
''The answer is in your own hands. Don't subscribe to Sky, or ESPN or whoever pulls the strings. No subscribers, no fixture manipulation for TV.''
by paul burchett
11:16AM 27th Feb 2013
''Totally vindicate your comments Paul, we are 'ex-pats' also living in Manchester and although not season ticket holders we have the exact same issue on a regular basis re train travel and match times, you have to book early if you don't want to pay a fortune.
But Sky will be paying us a King's Ransom for TV fixtures from next season (presuming we don't self implode over the next 11 games) so the problem ain't going to disappear anytime soon. Going to Stoke saturday as is driveable, knew there was no chance of it being televised after they'd already shown the home fixture, and we can't keep losing away games, can we... COYI''
by g portugal
08:32AM 27th Feb 2013
''Fully agree. symptomatic of the Chelsification of football. The disruptions are an absolute joke. Which is part of why the PL product is on a steady decline.''
05:53PM 26th Feb 2013
''Surely our fixtures being changed because of the FA Cup has nothing to do with the TV companies? It isn't their fault that Man Utd are in the sixth round of the Cup.''
by Ella Patterson
05:46PM 26th Feb 2013
''I know where you are coming from but there are people in a worse state! I am a Manchester United season ticket holder living in Northern Ireland. Just look at the small print on the Man United fixtures list and think what that does to air fares!''
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