How to Improve the Premier League Weekend Fixtures

I realize that what I will suggest will border on being sacrilegious in the eyes of English football traditionalists, but here goes: The weekend Premier League football schedule needs to change.

Let me explain.

This past weekend’s matches in the Premier League were very entertaining (except for the Sunderland against Fulham game). But the shame of it all was that we soccer fans didn’t get to enjoy the common experience of watching the same games at the same time. Most of us probably watched Norwich against Arsenal, Swansea versus Manchester United, Chelsea against Liverpool, and may watch Aston Villa against Tottenham Hotspur. Out of the 10am ET games on Saturday, I would guess that the vast majority of TV soccer viewers watched Manchester City against Newcastle. Right?

So that means that the majority of viewers missed watching these games live: Stoke against QPR, West Brom vs Bolton, Wigan versus Blackburn, Sunderland against Fulham, and Everton v Wolves. Those were five games that were largely overlooked by most soccer fans because it’s difficult to watch more than one game at one time.

The shame is that, out of all of the games from this past weekend (other than Chelsea against Liverpool), the two most entertaining ones were Wigan against Blackburn and Stoke City versus Queens Park Rangers.

So here’s my recommendation. Why not spread the Premier League matches out over the weekend to allow TV viewers from around the world the chance to see more Premier League games, thus increasing TV ratings and helping promote the Premier League? Traditionalists will argue that the 3pm GMT kick-off time is done for a reason, to allow football supporters in the United Kingdom to utilize transport (either public or their own) to attend matches (home and away). But the reality is that the three o’clock kick-off is no longer a norm in the Premier League. That ship has sailed long ago.

Taking this past weekend’s matches as an example, here’s how I would have liked to see the matches shown on television:

Friday, November 18:

  • Wigan v Blackburn, 8pm GMT
Saturday, November 19:
  • Norwich vs Arsenal, 12:45pm GMT
  • Manchester City v Newcastle United, 3pm GMT
  • Stoke City v Queens Park Rangers, 5pm GMT
  • Swansea v Manchester United, 7pm GMT
Sunday, November 20:
  • Everton v Wolves, Noon GMT
  • Sunderland v Fulham, 2pm GMT
  • Chelsea v Liverpool, 4pm GMT
  • West Bromwich Albion v Bolton, 6pm GMT
Monday, November 21:
  • Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur, 8pm GMT

The advantages of the above schedule are that (1) it allows TV viewers to see more games live instead of missing some or seeing some on delay, (2) it gives teams more exposure for those clubs that often get overlooked, and (3) it extends the Premier League weekend to include a Friday night match as well as a late Sunday kick-off.

The disadvantage is that finding train service on a Sunday night is difficult in England (from personal experience trying to get from Blackburn to London after 6pm GMT on a Sunday night). You would think by now, in this day and age, that train times would be better in England, but that’s a different topic for another blog to cover.

If the Premier League had a schedule like the one above, one game would roll into another one and so on. With TV rights for the Premier League continuing to increases overseas while domestic TV rights in the United Kingdom are projected to fall, it’s time for the Premier League to consider adapting its schedule.

40 thoughts on “How to Improve the Premier League Weekend Fixtures”

  1. I would actually be inclined to agree from an American POV. American football on sundays has early games and late games. Since European football has the entire weekened to broadcast, two days of early and late games like what you mentioned above would probably make it better for viewing multiple games live.

  2. I could not agree more. Spreading the matches out to reach a wider audience makes so much sense. Of course, that also cuts down on the amount of stuff I get accomplished around the house over the weekend, but so be it!

    MLS does this to a degree, with a few Friday night matches thrown into the mix this year along with the Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, and Sunday matches. I’d like to see a few more mid-week matches as well.

  3. Brilliant idea, might be difficult to spread out each and every match but by spreading more you give fans plenty of opportunity to see more games. The only downside with Friday night games would be teams who are playing UCL games on Wednesday nights prior to a scheduled Friday night match.

  4. You could throw 6pm Friday and 6pm Monday games into the mix to keep the spread rather than the Sunday night game. The 6pm Friday would be popular with the “Friday after work” crowd. I also think the Sunday night game could be carefully selected as a local game to avoid travel issues.

    1. What about the “Friday still in work crowd” who have a season ticket or a general match day ticket? They expected to lose an afternoons pay or risk being fired just to suit the new schedule? Wonder how many actual Premier League supporters who go to the games every week would like a Friday 6pm kickoff over a Saturday 3pm one? I doubt you’ll find any!

  5. I personally think that they shouldn’t play the games all spread out as you suggest. Once you make that change, how big a leap is it to playing games abroad to boost the exposure of the game overseas. I am aghast at the possibility of a 39 game season. Here in Bangkok, some bars show virtually all of the games simultaneously. Prime time too…Saturday & Sunday late night!

  6. There are a few factors to consider

    1) When will they get the maximum amount of viewers.
    2) Making sure people still actually turn up in numbers to watch at the stadium.
    3) European and cup fixtures.
    4) Broadcasting restrictions/deals.
    5) Fixture scheduling.

    I think they will continue to increase the number of broadcast games where they can. Less games will be 3pm kick offs. I’m not sure games on a Friday would work because of midweek fixtures. I can see Saturday and Sunday being more evenly spread out though.

    1. Somebody who speaks sense! Your points are all valid.

      After the recent court case of the “pub landlady” which could potentially change the way Premier League TV rights are sold across Europe, the likely way in which TV rights will be going is that there will be more games played on Sunday afternoons so that Sky Sports can show the matches live but the remaining games will still be played on Saturday’s at 3pm.

      Extra worldwide viewers for the league are great but ultimately the most important people to keep happy are those in the UK.

    1. That is correct. It’s the whole reason “TV games” are shown at 12.45pm and 5.30pm on Saturdays and various times on Sundays because they don’t fall within the 3pm – 5.15pm blackout time imposed by the FA.

  7. Problem is at the end of the season where if you suddenly know you’re safe from say relegation by the result of an earlier game you play at less than 100% creating a potential ripple affect .

    1. You could just keep the spread out schedule for most of the season and then have the final week games all start at the same time. That would be similar to what they do for the World Cup, where all the games are spread out except for the final game of the group stage.

  8. The times of the fixtures don’t need to change, the paradigm for broadcasting needs to change. Cable providers need to adopt the ESPN3 method. Every event if available to watch live and ever event is available on demand afterwards. That is how people want to consume television.

  9. The only thing I would add is local blackout on TV so that stadiums can fill – this is the way it is done for American football in the US – once a stadium is sold out or at a high percentage sale then the TV broadcast can open up locally as well. It would still be available on replay at a later time anyway. Otherwise I think this is one of the most sensible ideas I have read for a long time.

    1. The UK isn’t big enough to impose blackout restrictions and our broadcasting methods are different to yours! DirecTV and Dish Network for example have totally different methods of broadcasting feeds to what we use in Europe so a blackout wouldn’t ever be an option here.

      1. Plus there’s the fact that we already pay Sky a fortune to watch TV so to pay them a subscription fee and then have your viewing blacked out would result in a lot of people calling up to cancel and that’s not something they want!

  10. Your suggestions for how the matches should be shown on TV are ridiculous! I live in the UK and I’m glad you’re not in charge! All Premier League fixtures are chosen by Sky for live TV coverage purposes but there’s other limitations in place from the local police in the city that the match is taking place.

    Premier League would never take place on a Friday and never has done either. Other leagues play on a Friday and due to European competitions Champions League, Europa League etc, the players wouldn’t want to be playing on a Friday after European competition in the same week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday).

    Saturday matches have the early kick off (12.45) so it can be shown live on Sky Sports HD2 because it finishes just before the 3pm blackout starts. The next available window for us is the 5.30pm game which ESPN shows. There are no football matches played after this time so your example of Swansea v Man U at 7pm on a Saturday wouldn’t ever be remotely considered because there would be too much chance of violence with people in pubs plus it would be a strategic nightmare for the police because Saturday nights towns and cities are busy enough with people having a night out… never mind 50,000 extra people coming out of a football match!

    Your suggestions for Sunday afternoon matches often happen anyway and this will happen more so in the coming years in order to show more live games on UK TV. The 3pm blackout will not be removed so the majority of games will remain at 3pm however there will be more 12pm, 2.05pm and 4.10pm kick-offs that Sky Sports will be showing; in a few weeks on December 18th there are multiple Sunday fixtures –

    QPR v Man U – 12pm (Live on Sky Sports 1)
    Aston Villa v Liverpool – 2:05pm (Live on Sky Sports 1)
    Spurs v Sunderland – 3pm
    Man City v Arsenal – 4.10pm (Live on Sky Sports 1)

    There will never be a 6pm kick-off on a Sunday because people would have a hard time getting home because public transport on a Sunday is virtually non existent so unfortunately we’re not going to put ourselves out and give ourselves undue problems just to suit TV viewers in America!

    And Monday night football is a nightmare as well! Might sound good to you in America but it’s not very nice here trying to get home halfway around the country if you’re playing away, all in the knowledge that you’ve got to be up for work in the morning!

    You say that your timings will allow TV viewers to see more games live instead of missing some? That’s not how the Premier League works over here in the UK. We have our own team (I live in Liverpool, I was born here. Shock horror, I support Liverpool!) and we follow that team. We don’t sit here watching every game of the other 19 teams live on TV – we don’t really care that much! I watch all of Liverpool’s games in the pub usually. If Liverpool played on the Saturday, I might watch the Super Sunday match on Sky Sports if it’s somebody interesting but wouldn’t really bother me if I missed it because I’m only interested in MY team.

    It’s not time for the Premier League to consider adapting its schedule at all. Especially not to keep viewers across the world happy! The TV rights here in the UK weren’t far off £2 billion last time… the combined rights for the rest of the world were only worth £1.4 billion so it’s really not that lucrative to go changing the game we know and love just to suit the odd armchair viewer in America or wherever else it may be!

  11. The EPL games are scheduled to satisfy TV broadcasts and those same TV channels also broadcast other European games, La Liga and Serie A as examples. Most of the La Liga and Serie games are scheduled after the EPL games. It is very uncommon for the top 4-6 EPL teams to play at the same time as Real Madrid or Barcelona or one of the top Italian teams. Scheduling EPL games during those time slots would affect Spanish and Italian viewership. So there’s also a TV angle to when EPL games are scheduled.

    1. You’re right in a sense but not totally. La Liga games are scheduled in a way to avoid the demands of the high temperatures in Spain so they play there games at less traditional times to what we’re used to here in the UK. Those games aren’t really a priority for us here though and it’s the same for the Premier League in Spain or Italy etc. The home nations league is the only priority so Premier League here in UK, La Liga in Spain, Serie A in Italy… We often show La Liga matches on the red button on Sky Sports especially on a Sunday when Sky are still showing the end of the Super Sunday Premier League show. Real Madrid or Barcelona don’t ever figure in how we work out our fixtures I can assure you of that!

      The only TV angle is that the Premier League is effectively controlled by Sky Sports because it’s them who pick the games to move out of the 3pm Saturday slot and into the 12.45pm, midday, 1.30pm or 4pm slots. Occasionally ESPN will get a 5.30pm Saturday pick as well.

  12. I think the EPL should schedule 2 games every night, 6pm and 8pm gmt Monday to Friday. That way we’ll have our weekends free to spend with the missus :-) .

    1. What a dreadful idea. There’s much more football here in the UK than the PL! Plus how would you expect any fans to get to the stadiums for a 6pm weekday kickoff? Are they going to leave work early every week and get the sack just to travel around the country to suit viewers in America? We like it just the way it is thank you very much!

  13. Obviously, the more soccer I can watch the better. But no major sport would ever consider doing this. Just a shame we live in the US and only get so many matches

    1. Don’t you get all 380 matches over there in one form or another? We only get 138 matches shown live on TV here in the UK. To watch the remaining matches (all 3pm Saturday kickoffs) we have to go to the pub and watch them on satellite TV from European channels or watch the highlights on Saturday evening on Football First on Sky Sports or Match of the Day on BBC One!

  14. This idea could diminish attendance at lower league games, create horrible scheduling conflicts for cups and europe, and create havoc for the traveling faithful.

    Very bad idea.

  15. what do you mean by “You would think by now, in this day and age, that train times would be better in England, but that’s a different topic for another blog to cover.”

    Train schedules are set based on the number of potential riders for a specific route at a specific time. Are you implying that you expect trains to run 24/7 just to serve your needs regardless of profits/losses?

    1. How do you know that there wouldn’t be enough passengers to make train services profitable on a Sunday night if there are no late trains? There may be demand, but there may be no options available.

      The Gaffer

  16. The only who makes any sense on this topic is ‘Paul’. That is if you know anything about tradition, logistics, supporters viewing habits etc. Last time I checked it was the English Premier League – not Americam Premier League!!

  17. I think more games spread out throughout saturday and sunday will happen overtime but not like the original post suggests. Compare the non-3pm matches today to 12 years ago when there were only two matches that didn’t kickoff at saturday 3pm (the sunday and monday night matches). Now we have 4 or 5 matches that don’t kickoff at 3pm.
    The growth of money from international tv deals is growing and with emerging economies being able to afford more money these deals will mean the EPL will pay more attention to the global market. I predict in 10 years time we will probably see 2 matches kickoff at each of the current timeslots so more matches can be broadcast and viewed everywhere. Having matches later in the day may be better for america but doesn’t work for asia which is a bigger market and will directly compete with american football which will never win so thats why i think the earlier/current time slots will stay but the number of matches will be spread out with only a couple being left for the traditional 3pm saturday timeslot.

    1. The TV viewers in America, Asia and anywhere else in the world other than the UK aren’t lucrative enough for the Premier League and that’s shown by how dramatically different the value of the league is in terms of TV rights; the UK rights alone are worth more than the rest of the world combined so the home market will remain the priority and rightfully so.

      I agree with you though when you say that more games will be moved away from the 3pm Saturday window but it’s got nothing to do with the global market. It is all to do with the pub landlady case and viewing of 3pm games here in the UK. There is no two ways about it – the league will be re-structuring the way games are packaged in time for the next set of European rights going up for tender. Simple fact is that the league do not want 3pm games being televised in this country and it’s still up in the air as to whether or not a full package of 380 games will be sold to Europe next time around. If they are forced to sell on a pan-European basis to keep in with European law then they won’t be selling all the games.

      They will have to sell the same amount of games to European broadcasters as they do to Sky and ESPN so that’s 138 live games. In my opinion that will kill the leagues appeal off in Europe so to combat that they will re-package it to include more games, leaving a small amount of 3pm kickoffs to be unavailable for viewing in Europe as a whole. We’ll get more lives games here in the UK, they’ll get less live games in Europe and your viewing in the rest of the world won’t be affected – you’ll still get access to all 380.

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