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Is Friday Night Football A Good Thing?

August 17, 2016

- Grant Whittington

If you exclude European competition, Premier League football is fast developing into a four-day weekend thanks to the introduction of live Friday night matches, starting at Old Trafford in two days time, where Southampton are the visitors.

This alteration represents another move away from the traditional 3pm starts on a Saturday, meaning from August 2016 broadcasters will be able to show 168 games live – an incredible 44 per cent of all top flight matches throughout the campaign. Friday night football will be home to at least 10 matches over the season as the battle for TV rights continues to intensify.

Live football is extremely lucrative business and broadcasters are willing to offer extortionate amounts of money in return for Premier League TV licensing. To put it into context, the Daily Mail reported that Sky paid £2.28bn for their current 116 games per season, or in other words, got 348 games at £6,551,724 each.

In contrast, its arch-rival BT paid £738m for their current 38 games per season, or in other words, got 114 games at £6,473,684 each.

It is Sky Sports that will be first to examine whether or not televising matches on a Friday evening pulls in viewers, with Jeff Stelling and Rachel Riley reigniting their Countdown partnership in what has been billed as Sky’s “biggest ever season of Premier League football.”

This warm up for the weekend is not solving a conundrum, but it once again emphasises football’s continual drift away from its working-class roots and its reckless vision to meet the demands of spectators.

The key reason for weekend games traditionally kicking off at 3pm on Saturdays was when football started up as an organised sport, most industrial workers finished at midday on a Saturday. A 3pm start gave them time to finish work, wash, eat and get down to the ground for the game.

This ritual has become more of a luxury than custom with a tyranny of greed and obsession for revenue exploiting the loyalty of fans amidst the impracticalities that Friday night football is likely to cause.

For away fans, an evening kick-off on a Friday and a journey of any length means a return home in the early hours of Saturday morning. Public transport will be nigh on impossible, therefore making the game even more inaccessible for those without a car.

On the other hand, it can be argued that the beautiful game will forever be cherished and fervent supporters will go out of their way to ensure they are able to watch their beloved club, be it on the big screen or by using every last resource to make their way to the respective stadium.

Stelling is promising the programme will have lighter vibes to those normally associated with Sky Sports on a weekend or Monday night. However, he has maintained that the “star of the show will still be the game” and ultimately that it will attract sizeable interest, no matter what day or time the game is scheduled.

Manchester United vs. Southampton is followed by Chelsea vs. Liverpool, so there is certainly no shortage of quality for those who prefer the comfort of the sofa on a Friday evening.

Jose Mourinho’s men will be looking to continue their perfect record under their new boss following victory in the Community Shield, which was backed up by last Sunday’s 1-3 win at the Vitality Stadium. Southampton opened their campaign with a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Watford and will go into the match on Friday as heavy underdogs, despite winning this fixture in January thanks to a debut winner from Charlie Austin.

Betway have priced the Saints at 7/1 to repeat this feat, with Manchester United understandably 4/9 favourites and with the luxury of finally being able to select the world’s most expensive player – Paul Pogba. This is further proof that money makes not just the world go round, but the football world too.

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