The fixture mess — how has this happened?

Date: 23rd April 2015

FOLLOWING on from a previous piece about the league split, the post-split fixtures were announced last week, as well as the revelation that the final game of the Championship season — Hearts vs Rangers — was to be played on the Sunday due to television coverage, after the rest of the Championship sides had played on the Saturday.

Now that’s only half of the scheduling/fixture calamity.

Thankfully, the SPFL have made a U-turn and decided that it would be in the best interests of the clubs, fans, players and anyone else involved, if the Hearts vs Rangers match was played at the same time as the rest of the Championship matches on the final day.

Well done!

It has always been the case that teams should be playing at the same time on the final day of the season. It adds to the drama of the sport. Fans get more excited, more exhausted, more emotional and more involved with Scottish football when other teams are doing what they need to, spurring on your own team to do what they need to.

Fair enough, that Hearts have already won the Championship, so there would be no Helicopter Saturday to decide where the trophy goes, but Hibs and Rangers are both competing for the coveted second-place spot to have the best possible chance to get promoted back to the Premiership.

The fact that a Sunday match between Hearts and Rangers was even considered was shocking. It just wouldn’t be right if Rangers could go into their match with Hearts a day after Hibs had played, knowing what they need to do.

It is so much better being in a stadium, or at home, hearing about goals coming through from other stadiums that affect your team.

It gets the fans to spur on their team if it’s needed, or lets the team know when there is less pressure on them. The atmosphere changes drastically and the teams feed off it.

Stadiums in Scotland are often full of empty seats, but on the final day of the season, fans turn out in numbers to fill the stadium and get behind their team. Hypothetically, if Hibs were to lose on the Saturday and Rangers were even just one point clear going into their final game, there isn’t much point of fans spending their money to travel to the game and fill the stadium if they know that they have already secured second place.

I could go on and on about how wrong a decision it was to have a game being played at a different time to the rest of the league, but thankfully, it has been amended. Once again, bravo!

However as I mentioned that was only half the story.

It is not only the final game of the season which is ludicrous to me. Celtic will not play again on a Saturday this season, Motherwell will play their eighth match of the season on a Friday night, as well as a whole host of other Friday and Sunday fixtures.

Now, no one enjoys Friday night fixtures, well no one that I know. Some people are up at 6am, even before then, for work. Then they have their 8-12 hour shift and then they get home at, maybe, 6pm and they 1) don’t have the time to get to the match or 2) they simply don’t have the energy.

Also, the final day of the Premiership season is Sunday 24 May, with games kicking off at 12:30pm. One of the matches is Celtic vs Inverness Caley Thistle. 12:30pm kick-off, on a Sunday, for the final day of the season? Are you having a laugh? Especially when the ICT fans were dragged down to Hampden for a lunchtime kick-off in the Scottish Cup Semi Final.

One doesn’t have to be a brainiac on the level of Stephen Hawking to work out that this is nonsense. You’d need to be on the road from about 9am and many people will have a drink on their Saturday night, so it won’t be possible for them to drive legally to the match. That isn’t even mentioning potential church goers and/or people who enjoy their lie-in on a Sunday.

It just seems as if the fixture schedulers have completely made error after error when it has come to fixture scheduling over the course of the entire season.

Rangers have played a match on every day of the week this term — even Tuesdays and Thursdays. I make reference to Rangers as I seen this on twitter and checked it out. I simply don’t have the time to look through every one of the 42 clubs and check their fixtures to see which days they’ve played on.

Feel free to look at your clubs league fixtures and see what days they have played on this season, and remember how it has been inconvenient it sometimes was for you to attend the match.

Football is traditionally a Saturday thing, occasionally a mid-week. But far too often there are start-of-the-week and not-quite-end-of-the-week fixtures. We see this on TV, with games on every day of the week.

European mid-week games often sell-out as they can be once in a lifetime experiences. Whereas games against familiar league opposition are generally played in half-empty stadiums.  I would argue that this is at least partially due to the fact that fans will be able to see that same fixture again in a month or so.

Other articles/blogs have called for a better restructuring of the leagues, so I won’t go into that. As I’ve rambled on a bit here, I’ll begin to close off.

Just think about which nights your team has played on this season, and in previous seasons. Has it been convenient for you to go to the game?

I’ve heard how one man and his son were season ticket holders at a club and one day his son simply said ‘Dad, do we need to go to the match today?’

On one hand the dad was a bit gutted that his son didn’t really want to go see the match, but on the other he was relieved. This was in the winter but for football mad child to say to his dad that he didn’t really want to go and stand in the cold and rain to watch his team play is sad.

7:45pm kick-offs are not convenient for anyone. If the younger generation of fans are already beginning to drag their heels about going to matches, who will fill our stadiums in 10 years’ time? Who will keep our clubs financially sustainable?

As we all know, the SPFL are supposed to safeguard our clubs. Just now, with fixture scheduling like this, not enough is being done to fulfil this task.

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