The latest batch of television picks have been announced and as you might have expected there has been scant consideration for the supporters when these have been decided.
For us the most notable change is the moving of the Manchester City home match to an 8pm kick-off on Monday 21st December. It’s not only City who will have supporters unable to get home by public transport just four days before Christmas.
What a Christmas it will be for the Gooner faithful. The Southampton away game on Boxing Day (when there is no rail service) has been switched to a 7.45pm kick-off. The knock-on effect of that means another delayed kick-off for the visit of Bournemouth to the Grove two days later.
The other change affecting us is perhaps not as bad for the travelling faithful. The trip to Villa has become a Sunday lunchtime kick-off on 13th December.
It’s not just us. I cannot imagine that Palace or Chelsea fans will be impressed with a Monday night fixture on Merseyside. Some of Manchester United’s supporters will struggle to get home from Bournemouth on a Saturday night. How many Geordies will make the journey back from Tottenham on a Sunday night? Liverpool’s faithful face an away fixture at Sunderland the night before New Year’s Eve.
The clubs of course will trot out the pre-ordained response about whoever pays the piper calling the tune, whilst not so secretly relishing the huge revenues that the televised games bring these days. But are the television companies paying the piper? From where I am sitting that is you and I, not them.
Who is paying the increased television subscriptions over which we have little say? That’s right, you and I. At the end of the day if we keep paying ever-increasing sums to the television then there will be no thought given to our preferences. We are effectively a captive market.
The television companies are not the only ones milking the situation. The clubs too haven’t cut their prices to supporters despite the increased revenue from television. To be fair Arsenal do offer some assistance with travel and ticket discounts to the travelling Gooners, and that is to be applauded.
What of the home supporters though? An expensive grade A match on a Monday night four days before Christmas. Some season-ticket holders won’t be able to get home by public transport afterwards, and others will not be able to justify the expense in the festive week. If there are empty seats as a result the club won’t be affected. They have their money.
So what can be done? Well, simply, unless supporters realise that we are ultimately paying that sodding piper, and rebel against the system currently in place, then nothing. That means large numbers of supporters of all clubs, not just Gooners. Is the collective will there to stop paying for the sports packages that have slowly taken over the most popular events? Is there a combined will to boycott matches and demonstrate for change?
I suspect we know the answer to that. Those who are grabbing ever greater chunks of our cash will continue to take advantage of our apathy and/or sense of helplessness. It’s hard to see any large scale reduction in subscribers to television sport. There will be people, devoted to Arsenal, who will vote with their feet, but there are plenty waiting in the wings to take their place in the stadium.
Frustrating, isn’t it?