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That Friday Night Feeling – Assessing how new match night affects supporters

I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning.” So went The Specials on their 1981 B-side. Southampton fans might be dolefully humming that very same song as they make their way home after tonight’s match against Man United. The game’s timing leaves public transport out of the question. Instead, traveling support will be seeking alternative methods to find their beds. Ticket allocations have sold out, however. So, it is likely fans will take to coaches up and down the motorway.

It all comes back to the question of whether the concerns of the fans were taken into consideration when Friday Night Football was first proposed? Fine for the armchair fans, but not so much for those attending the game. The trial run, which saw the Reds travel to Aston Villa at the start of last season, was enforced due to a police decision. Better for the powers that be to think of the feelings of National Front supporters than match fans apparently. This is, of course, not a new sensation for experienced fans. Many can still recall the first ever Monday night football match back in the ’92/93 season when roles were reversed. Late night traffic jams and United’s debut win that season at the Dell thanks to a last minute strike by new signing Dion Dublin. Heady days indeed.

The idea of Saturday 3 PM kick-offs across the board are long gone. Fans themselves have been in two minds about it. Evening and night games tend to attract more of the hard-core fans, but it does mean rejigging commitments when it comes to away games. Premier League games have been held on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for quite some time. The Monday night games have become part of the norm despite much debate prior to their introduction. With congested schedules a fact of life for many clubs, finding calendar space to fit in cup and European games becomes even more difficult.

Football League games have been shown on TV for the past few seasons, which, so far, seems to have gone down well. One proposal was to limit the long distances that fans have to travel for such evening games. For example, an away trip to Burnley for an evening game would certainly be manageable for most. Policing issues would probably ban local derbies however. It might not be feasible for every team but it would certainly lessen the expenses for those traveling.

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