The Argument: Time for Midweek Afternoon Matches?
There are well over three million retail workers in the UK, many of whom work more Saturdays than not. Add on public service and transport employees and a whole stack of night shift workers and you a have significant portion of the country that cannot watch football at its traditional time of Saturday at 3pm.
Saturday 3pm is a tradition based on working men who finished their shifts on Saturday mornings and went straight on to the football in the nineteenth century. These days, Saturday workers, in all likelihood, work a full day. So – with so many people working non-traditional shifts is it worth having a rethink about Saturday afternoon and considering alternative times away from weekends?
Holding games on Saturday evenings and Sunday lunchtimes might help. However, I wonder if anyone has given any serious thought to holding a game on a midweek afternoon? What kind of people would turn up to a game at that time?
I suggest that, with enough promotion, it should be possible to fill a ground with fans on a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. Weekend and night workers usually get a day off during the week and there are plenty of self-employed workers and home workers that can manage their work schedule accordingly.
With the usual crowd at work we may also see different types of folk in the stadia – people who may otherwise be put off by the idea of going to games because of preconceptions about football supporters.
In 2011 Fenerbahçe and Manisaspor played a game in front of 41,000 women and children due to the Turkish Football Federation banning all the men because of crowd trouble. The atmosphere was reportedly very different and some of the players said it was the best they’d ever experienced. I cite this extreme example only to illustrate that a hitherto excluded group of football fans can turn up to games in strong numbers and can add a new dimension to the experience.
Playing matches on a Wednesday afternoon will be rough on many regular supporters and season ticket holders and rougher still for away fans. Also, there will be issues with staffing and security at stadia on match-days during traditional working days.
But this needn’t be a regular thing; just a handful of games a season – and with enough notice, these obstacles can be overcome. Season ticket holders could give their ticket to a friend or family member who can go. Away fan attendances will suffer but determined fans will make adjustments and are already used to taking time off for evening games.
For years we’ve laboured under the assumption that Saturday 3pm is best time to watch football in the UK. There’s even a domestic TV embargo to protect it, banning live coverage. However, I reckon modern working patterns have created an untapped supporter base which would go to football on weekdays if they could and that many clubs would profit by adapting accordingly.