The Premier League is considering a major shake-up to its match scheduling that could see the introduction of a new Sunday kickoff time. According to reports, Premier League executives are proposing four matches on Sundays instead of the three that we get now. Kickoffs would range between noon and 6:30 p.m. local time. For American audiences, that would mean four back-to-back games beginning at 7 a.m., and the last kickoff starting at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Addressing the real problem
This potential change comes as the Premier League faces mounting pressure to scrap the long-standing 3 p.m. blackout on Saturday afternoons. Currently, no Premier League matches air live on TV in the UK between 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. local time on Saturdays. This rule prohibits fans in the UK from watching any of the traditional 3 p.m. kickoffs unless they attend the match in person.
The 3 p.m. blackout exists to protect attendance at lower-league games. For instance, if a fan cannot stay home to watch other Premier League games, they could go to their local club in person. Fans regularly argue it is an outdated system in the digital age. Scrapping the blackout could allow more Premier League games to be broadcast during this slot. However, adding new Sunday kickoff times would be a compromise to appease broadcasters and fans wanting more access without completely lifting the Saturday ban.
Premier League may use Sunday night as an alternative
The proposal for four Sunday afternoon matches starting at 7 a.m and ending at 3:30 p.m. ET dramatically shakes up the Premier League’s traditional weekend broadcast schedule. Currently, Sundays tend to feature just two to three Premier League fixtures. Those typically are at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m ET. Adding two extra Sunday slots (7 a.m and 1:30 p.m. kickoffs) increases the number of weekend matches broadcast in the UK. In the US, we get access to every game regardless.
According to reports, the additional Sunday games also allow more matches from the Women’s Super League and EFL Championship to move. They can take advantage of the vacant 3 p.m. local time slot. This yields increased exposure to both competitions.
The impact on American fans of the Premier League
This scheduling conflict would likely have a detrimental impact on Premier League viewership and fandom in the USA. Any matches starting Sunday after 1:00 p.m. ET will be in direct conflict with the NFL. Having to choose between watching NFL games or Premier League matches could lead many American fans to simply stick with the NFL. It is the most popular and ingrained sport in American culture. Casual supporters may be more inclined to watch what they are used to watching at that time.
Unlike American football, interest in international soccer is still more of a niche interest in the USA. Therefore, direct competition with the NFL could stunt the Premier League’s growth in the American market. Moreover, the overlap would make it very difficult for bars and restaurants to show both Premier League and NFL games if they happen concurrently. These public venues play a major role in growing soccer fandom in the USA. They provide communal gathering places to watch big Premier League matches. If they can only show one or the other, NFL games almost certainly take priority.
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The Premier League is trying to find the ideal Sunday schedule for the UK market by catering to its European fanbase. Placing matches opposite the NFL would be detrimental to the league’s efforts to expand soccer viewership in America. Unless the Premier League could work out streaming or delayed telecast options, Sundays would become an either/or proposition for American fans wanting to watch both soccer and American football. This choice could alienate and discourage Premier League fans over the long term.
Reaction to the decision
More televised matches are a positive for armchair fans. Yet, there are concerns extra Sunday games with varied kickoff times could impact match-going supporters. Fan groups have already voiced opposition to fixtures moving, which disadvantages traveling fans. Moreover, fragmented kickoff times may negatively impact matchday atmospheres.
Still, the incentive for Premier League clubs is obvious. The new TV rights deal from 2024 is expected to be worth a significant increase. Broadcasters are eager for more match access. For clubs playing in Europe, having every weekend game televised would also be a major boost commercially.
With talks over the Premier League’s broadcasting future ongoing, the Sunday night kickoff proposal shows a willingness to be flexible. Ultimately, the success of any changes relies on striking the right balance between broadcasters, fans, and clubs. From an American perspective, having a Premier League game shown live on Sundays from 1:30 p.m ET would be an added treat.
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