Friday night football

Date: 25th June 2021

The SFSA’s latest blog from SFSA resident writer Donald Stewart

Friday Night Football.

Sky Sports, I think, coined the phrase by demanding that the league put games on, on a Friday night and then plastering it all over their media. They then delivered, I believe, the concept of Monday Night Football.

Television made demands and the sport bowed to their financial pressure and complied. It is an all too familiar story of the last few years in English football, which has the whip hand over any other football in the UK as it has the biggest numbers.

In Scotland, I am sure that Messrs. Maxwell and Doncaster dream of being given the opportunity to being told, with quite the same financial clout, by a broadcaster what to do but I am sure that BBC Alba executives have hardly lifted the phone to request that the League One Playoff be shifted to accommodate the news. Of course, they are as much at TV’s beck and call as anyone else is, it’s just the rewards are easier to account for…

It is therefore incredibly refreshing when a club, any club, takes the initiative.

And all plaudits to Edinburgh City.

In an attempt to grow their brand – imagine that a lower league club using marketing concepts – Edinburgh City have negotiated with the League to have their home games on a Friday night. Why? To attract more eyes on their games. To sell more tickets. To offer football fans the opportunity to come and see them and then, go see their big team on the following Saturday. Or Sunday… Or Monday…

Like many teams that have managed to escape the lower reaches of the pyramid structure, Edinburgh City bring fresh eyes, new perspectives and it looks like different views. The orthodoxy and tradition where things have always been done that way should always be challenged and here, we have the fruits of that style of labour in a bold move that could backfire; or could be sheer genius.

This is a club who made the decision not to wear the maroon or the green of their neighbours so that both sides of their footballing divide in Edinburgh could follow them irrespective of who their original allegiances may be. And now they be a tinkering with kick offs…

Sheer genius? We shall find out.

Encouraging the tribal fans of one team to come and support the efforts and success of another, no matter how far distant in league structure they may be, could prove tricky.

And yet it works.

In my hometown, the Chair of Whitletts Victoria, is a onetime chair and Director of Ayr United Football Academy and was for a time the supporter representative on the Board of Ayr United Football Club. The Vics have made great play of encouraging Ayr United fans to come along on Saturdays when Ayr are away to support the other local team. It has had some success as football fans who cannot travel – for whatever reason – get to take in a game at a much reduced price to what they are used to. And to be fair, in fallow times for United, honest endeavour, despite limited ability, can be more attractive to watch than constantly being humped by Dumbarton or Airdrie…

Of course, it is hardly new nor as innovative as it might seem, as some English clubs have tried the same trick and initiative in the past but for Scotland and for a club with ambition, it is a worthy attempt to adopt something which is new to us.

Edinburgh City shall take the field in the new season after watching both Cove Rangers and Queen’s Park being promoted to League On. There is some excitement for fans to brace themselves for and be attracted to Meadowbank to watch City. They have been there or thereabouts in recent times, in one of the tightest and best divisions in Scottish football, for fans to watch in recent seasons. Kelty Hearts join this year, and there shall be plenty looking to see if they can add to the splash the likes of Ross County, Inverness, Elgin City etc. have made since their introduction to the SPFL. Of course, most of the big splashes have come from the Highland League graduates so here is hoping the Lowland League newbies can equal that success.

Friday Night football does not, of course, suit everyone and there shall be games where the attendances for any team whose fans have to travel will be less than a traditional Saturday fixture would expect BUT, you have to hand it to the City folk, they are bringing something new and if we need anything in Scottish domestic football, it is something new…

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