3pm Saturday is exactly the wrong time to have football kick offs.

By Tony Attwood

3pm saturday kick offs are sacrosanct.  You can’t show a live football match between 3 and 5pm in the major heartlands of football.  That is England, Scotland and er… Montenegro.

And why?

Ah well that is where it gets tricky.   There is the suggestion that 3pm was the historic time to kick off matches, in the Good Old Days (GOD for short) although that is a bit of a misapprehension as the Arsenal History Society review of kick off times in the 1930 Arsenal handbook revealed.

This handbook helpfully carried all the kick off times for the season.   But unfortunately for the 3pm purists it showed that the majority of matches in the season actually kicked off at 3.30pm, while others kicked off at 3.15pm, 2.45pm, and 2.30pm.  In fact only two games in the whole season (October 25 and January 31) chose 3pm.

So why the excitement about 3pm?

The idea in the pre-floodlight days was to kick off later rather than sooner – hence the propensity for 3.30pm, thus allowing supporters as long as possible in the club bars before the game, while still having a chance to get home in time for the traditional tea after the match.

Which is why the reverence for 3pm has always seemed a bit odd to me – a time chosen to allow maximum alcohol consumption preserved in an age in which maximum alcohol consumption is both frowned upon socially and considered ill-advised medically.

Having been brought up on 3pm kick offs I can understand this and I do have a certain affection for the time – but for me it only works when I pop along to watch my local team, five miles up the road, which I do occasionally when Arsenal are not playing.

So maybe most people do go and watch teams that are close by – in which case surely we ought to make all games kick off at 3pm – whereas it seems more and more matches kick off at lunchtime, (OK for the traveller) or early evening (awful for the traveller).   8pm kick offs are worst of all for me because I am travelling towards London and entering the city in the rush hour, and  by the time I hit the M1 on the way back, they are starting to shut it, and I end up in traffic jams with thousands of trucks stranded on minor roads not built to take the strain.

So although I am not a subscriber to Eleven Sports I welcomed their recent challenge by showing  European football matches on Saturday afternoons.  They chose Italian and Spanish fixtures.

No clubs reported a sudden decline in people coming through the gate, but even so lots of pressure was put on the broadcaster, and the broadcaster gave in.

In a statement the company said, “Fans in the UK should have the freedom and the choice to watch these games legally through the official rights holder, as they do all over the world. Regrettably, intense pressure from stakeholders within the football establishment means that football fans across the country do not have this option.

“We maintain our strong view that the rule is unfit for the modern, digital era – particularly for overseas games which we hold the rights to,.  With the best interests of football fans at heart, we are currently considering all legal and regulatory options, including the referral of the case to the appropriate authorities.”

The chief executive of the EFL, Shaun Harvey, is quoted as saying that the ban on live TV at 3pm is there to “protect the interests of the game in this country as a whole, you can’t be half in or half out,” which rather begs the question, “how does it protect anything?” and “what on earth does the half in stuff mean?”

The point is that what would make a good kick off time for me (lunchtime Saturday or afternoon Sunday) would not be any good for everyone.   Lunchtime saturday would give me time to get back to the Midlands, have a meal and go out for Saturday evening.  3pm kick offs make that quite a lot harder.

There are of course many occasions now when football is all over the TV (Champions League nights for example) while lots of clubs are playing.  I don’t think the crowds noticeably decline.

And that is what always strikes me about the 3pm issue.  The arguments are never combined with statistics.   Of course I am not providing stats either, but that is because I don’t have them.  But the League does have stats in relation to the aforementioned Champs League evening games which clash with Football League matches.

Could it possibly be that their figures don’t actually back up their case, but they are just insistent that having their heads in the sand has always worked in the past, so why not now?

4 Replies to “3pm Saturday is exactly the wrong time to have football kick offs.”

  1. I largely grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Edmonton has an insanely large census metropolitan district size (about 3650 square miles, circle with a diameter of 68 miles). Someone on Untold once said Edmonton had a lot of race car drivers. I don’t know about that, but there sure is lots of speeding on the highways. But, we do tend to drive a lot. I once drove to Minneapolis to watch a UMn Gophers hockey game.

    But, when Wayne Gretzky was playing for the Edmonton Oilers, there were lots of people from Highway 43 that made the trip to every game (season’s tickets): Whitecourt (almost 2 hours drive to Edmonton), Grande Prairie (4.5 hours drive to Edmonton) and some from Dawson Creek (6 hours drive to Edmonton).


    On Arsenal.com, is a nice story that Arsenal are funding two English people to go to the World Amputee Cup.


  2. @Gord, another nice piece this week on Arsenal.com was an interview with Tabea Kemme who is one of our Women Centre Backs. Just after she signed for us last Spring she wrecked her knee and is only just back to outdoor training. She had her last meeting with her Surgeon in Germany and drove back to Arsenal some 1,200km. Her vehicle an old Volkswagen T2 camper van! Not for her a flashy sports car, she had always wanted one and promised herself that if she helped Germany win the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medal she would buy herself one. The rest as they say is history and it can usually be found in our team car park at Colney.

  3. For my TV viewing, I would preferred if most PL matches are scheduled to kickoff at 5:30pm. Because at that time during the summer, the sun looks to start to go down making the weather to become cool, first for the players to be comfortable playing football under the cool weather. Unlike if they are playing it in the heat of the blazing sun at the 3pm kickoff general time that is currently the case. Which as I’ve observed is making the players to sweat beyond normal and getting tired quickly than normal making them to start panting. And secondly, the TV pictures showing the matches on the TV screen at 5:30pm kickoff time is good and better for viewing on my high definition Sharp 32 inch TV set as the sun light reflection on the field of play and in the stands at that time has started receding and becomes eliminated altogether when it’s getting dark in the Stadium causing the flood lights to be switched ON. Generally, for good and better quality viewing on my TV set screen experience, I will prefer if the PL matches kickoff at 5:30pm instead of the 3pm general kickoff time that’s currently the kickoff time. Better still, I think the 8pm kickoff time is preferable to me than the all earlier kickoff times. But there are other factors when they are taken into account that will not make the 5:30pm and the 8pm kickoff time the general kickoff time possible in the PL. I can understand this.

  4. Life moves on. Kick offs were earlier when there were no floodlights. When I was a child 15.00 kick off on a Saturday was the norm as there was no live football on TV to consider. Midweek games were mainly on a Tuesday. Certainly in London at that time most of my family lived in East or North London and could get to Arsenal or Tottenham (yes some are Spurs fans!) easily. Social changes start to take place, being a Londoner my family all moved away from London to Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Employment patterns, nature and hours of work change. Licencing laws have changed and the hours that pubs are open from/to. Then we have TV affecting things. More and more games on live tv.

    So for me, and many (most?) Arsenal fans that are lucky enough to go to games, every home game is an ‘away’ game as I travel into London. The Monday evening games are the ones I don’t like so much now. I can’t provide a reason for that as I like mid-week European games. I prefer Saturday kick-offs. I’m not too fussed about Sunday kick-offs or Friday evenings.

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