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Bleary Eyes, Mince Pies and Drinking in the Morning: Ridiculous Times to Play Football

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The growth in live broadcasting of British football has brought increased financial rewards for the elite clubs, but has also resulted in a host of ridiculous kick-off times that have left match-going fans in the lurch.

However, broadcasters are not alone in making life difficult for football fans. Take the police, who moved the forthcoming all-Merseyside FA Cup Semi-Final to a lunchtime kick-off. This action has been met with great anger and frustration from both sets of fans, but where does it feature on the list of inadvisable, annoying and downright indefensible times to play football?

The Friendly Derby or A Logistical Nightmare?
Everton v Liverpool. 14th April 2012, 12.30pm

ESPN wanted to show this game at 5.30, whilst both sets of supporters were hoping to make a day of it at Wembley after a long journey down from Liverpool. The clubs also wanted the later kick-off. The police though, had other ideas. In a ridiculous attempt to prevent Scousers drinking all day (this is the reason, however they sugarcoat it) they moved the match to 12.30.

This is ill-advised for two reasons.

A 12.30 kick off will result in the game finishing by 3pm. This means lots of match-goers will then descend upon London pubs. They will go out drinking. It also means that fans adverse to early morning travels will stay in London on the Friday night. Again, they will go out drinking.

The madness doesn't stop there. Tens of thousands of fans will flock to Wembley on trains from Liverpool Lime Street to Euston at between 6 and 7am. This was already a logistical nightmare, but yep, you guessed it, it's also Grand National Day at Aintree. Utter pandemonium will ensue.

The scheduling of this year's other semi-final has also resulted in anger. Chelsea v Tottenham will be played at 6pm on Sunday. Chelsea are pursuing a change of time because of the "social implications" of, yep, you guessed it, fans drinking all day (and of course the fact that they may have a vital Champions League game just a couple of days later).

The One That Nobody Can Attend
The Europa League. Channel 5, 5pm

5pm on a Thursday? How about we play during rush hour on a Monday morning?

As if it wasn't bad enough that to win the Europa League you must negotiate around 1737637498 matches, the uselessness of this competition has been compounded by its crazy kick-off times.

The death of the competition formerly known as the Uefa Cup was confirmed when games started to be scheduled at times the majority of supporters couldn't feasibly attend. More widely, the growth of the weekday 5pm kick-off confirmed what we already knew - that the football "business" really doesn't care about supporters.

This season, Manchester City managed to attract 39,528 fans to watch the 5pm kick-off against Porto on Thursday 22nd February. This speaks volumes about the enduring passion of football fans.

The single upside of this ridiculous episode is kids getting in to some games for free. Overall though, if ever there was an example of a dove taking a dump, it's football allowing the pointless Europa League to even exist in its current guise.

The One For The Early Risers
Manchester City v Everton. October 2nd 2005, 11.15am

Churches and grass-roots football pitches in the North-west were sparsely populated on a sunny Sunday morning in October 2005 as Manchester City took on Everton in the earliest game in Premier League history.

The madness of the 11.30am kick-off in the late nineties had returned, but this time even earlier. As expected, for much of the game nothing happened as players and fans desperately tried to wake from their slumber.

Suddenly the game burst into life. First, Joey Barton was booked (obviously). Then the linesman was subbed, meaning a random man in a suit took the role of fourth official, before a Manchester City side inspired by legends such as Darius Vassell and Kiki Musampa finally broke Everton down with a 30-yard screamer from...Danny Mills.

Although this game was the earliest Premier League kick-off, the Cardiff v Swansea derby kicked off fifteen minutes earlier in 2009, at 11am on a Sunday morning. The result? Pubs opened at 8am and shameful hooliganism marred an exciting 2-2 draw.

The earliest kick-off ever? That would be 12.05am, as Barcelona and Sevilla tried to exploit a rule regarding player availability for international matches. Ticket prices were halved and stand-up comedians performed.

Putting the Turkey and Stuffing on Hold
Christmas Day

One of the more touching football moments took place during Christmas 1914, when a ceasefire during The Great War led to troops from opposing sides having a kick-about together.

Surprisingly though, football on Christmas Day became rather common in England during the next four decades, as people left the Turkey on the side and put on that terrible new wool jumper to indulge in some festive sport.

The last games played on Christmas Day in England took place in 1959, and included a thriller between Coventry and Wrexham, which ended 5-3 to the home side. In Scotland, Christmas Day fixtures ran until 1976, when only two games could be played due to a combination of poor weather and widespread reluctance.

The Ultimate Morning After
New Year's Day, 12pm

What do you usually do on New Years Day?

Do you sleep? Eat a big breakfast in mid-afternoon? Take lots of paracetamol? Make bleary-eyed resolutions about losing your beer belly this year?

Nope, it makes perfect sense to travel hundreds of miles to watch football on the one day of the year when we all want to do absolutely nothing.

To add insult to injury (hangover), how about playing at lunchtime?

Spare a thought for West Brom fans, who played at 12.45am on New Years Day in 2011, before kicking-off fifteen minutes earlier in 2012. They failed to win either game, and at this rate, in 2037 they'll be kicking-off the New Year in style at midnight!

Why not share some of your favourite stupid times to play football in the comments section?