The gilded impression of the Saturday 3pm kick off is absolute nonsense and so is everything that goes with it. The handwringing. The notion that something about football is lost if a game doesn’t kick off at 3pm on a Saturday. That it means something deeper and more significant. Saturday 3 is sacrosanct, enshrined in law to protect the noble game and the noble time from the ignoble broadcast.
Well, I hate Saturday 3. I absolutely hate it. It is rubbish. Saturday 3 is the worst time, of the currently available times, to watch football at Anfield, with the possible exception of the recent Sunday 12 which was horrific.
Saturday 3 is nothing. It allows you to neither stick or twist. A laid back post match interlude knocks your Saturday night off course. It’s now 7pm, you’re five post match pints to the good and whatever you were doing that night now seems a long way off. Saturday 1245 is incredible. Go hard and heavy from 11 or ease into the ground terrifyingly sober, but that afternoon opens up. So much room, so many choices. Saturday half 5, wowzer. Town. Match. Town. Dancing. I doff my cap my cap to the half 5. I quietly reckon half six might be better again, give you more afternoon to play with, but whatever. Sunday 1, the extra hour makes a world of difference, an afternoon you can do something with one way or another, a slight morning rush. Sunday 4. A man can build a weekend towards that.
It’s tougher for aways. However, almost any kick off time is tougher for aways. I like a Saturday 1245 for the away. Makes it an adventure, means you are home in time for a Saturday night. Better than a Saturday 3 when you aren’t likely to make it back before 9.
But, listen, it’s personal preference. I could be wrong. It’s not so much the idea that Saturday 3 is dreadful – it really is – but that it should be sacrosanct. That a kick off time is worth going to the mattresses for. Ticket prices, access questions, safe standing, policing? Forget them mate. We’re kicking off at half 5 and everyone gets to have more fun, but what about the tradition? What tradition are we going to erode next!?
I have a theory about Saturday 3 – it’s the issue it is easiest for our gentlemen and women of the press to get behind. Saturday 3 has historically been convenient for them. Imagine football is your job for a second. Imagine filing times and getting there and getting home. Imagine someone now says “Get there for 9am.” Or “You’ll be home after 9pm”. Imagine that in your work. No wonder those blighters stoke it all up.
Whenever it kicks off, let’s fight the right battles. Saturday 3 exists because of the way working patterns used to be and football – as an entertainment, something for people who work to go to to take their mind off things – scheduled itself accordingly. Three o’clock on a Saturday was perfect.
All the best lads, get on The Kop, they play the top ten (they don’t do that any more which is a greater shame) have a sing and a dance, watch the game and then off you go, have a night on the ale. Enjoy. Be entertained.
Great. But working patterns don’t happen like that any more. Instead Britons in their hundreds of thousands go out after work on a Friday night. Let’s stick a few games on for them, then. Tough week in work, Jeanne from accounts doing your head in, quick dart from work, five or six in quick succession, soz gang, got to go the game, taxi, in, couple after, back to town, hit a club, getting off with Jeanne who is all over you before you know what’s going on, because it was all that sexual tension which was causing the issue and The Reds are mustard again and it is Friday night. Swap any genders you like in this because another thing that’s well better than it used to be in football and society is our relationship with women and sexuality. (The latter remains questionable in football. Another battle bigger than kick off times).
That there are things wrong with football in modernity doesn’t mean everything in modern football is wrong. Yet things just get lashed in. It becomes this catch all basket of grievances, though I will acknowledge scheduling showpiece fixtures at a time when you can’t get trains as per Wembley’s nonsense is ridiculous and gives an easy stick to beat with. But week in, week out inconsistent kick off times mean I can watch more football. I like that there are a ton of games to watch. I often don’t choose to watch them but it is good to know that it is there should I need them.
I’d go further though. Want to protect football? Really want to do that? Want the old days? Then let’s say the Premier League doesn’t get a look in from 2 – 6 Saturday. Leave that to the lower leagues. No games whatsoever. Instead let’s have a Friday 8, a Saturday 12, a Saturday 6, a Saturday 8 and then flog the Sundays and have the Monday night. Let’s all go and watch Dulwich or Prescot or FC United or AFC Wimbledon or Southend or whatever and then go and watch our side either on the telly or in the ground. Or watch two of our rivals and be together, have a drink, a chat. Make a day of it. Just make a day of it.
The end of this is this though: The biggest issue football has from the point of view of those going through the turnstile is its price. The price of being in the ground. That and the impact it has in terms of pricing people out is by far the biggest problem the game faces. It’s television and shifted kickoff times which can save us.
These companies are paying far more money than we collectively manage. Let’s embrace them and win the next argument rather than chunnering on that things aren’t what they used to be.
Saturday 3. We don’t get many Saturday 3s anymore. Good. Because we don’t get tickets for twenty quid either and I know which one I want sorting first.
Is Neil right or has he just basically stormed into your church and urinated in the font? We want to know. We want the debate. We want you to either email [email protected] or click the link and fill out the form that our tech guys spent ages building.
You can follow Neil on Twitter (@knox_harrington)
You should also check out The Anfield Wrap, of which Neil is both a mover and a shaker.