Should the Premier League Have Friday Night Fixtures?

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Should the Premier League Have Friday Night Fixtures?
Alastair Grant

Throughout the week in England it is possible to watch top-flight domestic or European football on almost every night. 

The Premier League is staged across the weekend on Saturdays and Sundays, and for the last two decades football on a Monday night has also become a welcome addition to the calendar.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays the Premier League also stage games, alongside the Champions League, and the Europa League has claimed Thursday nights to be its own.

But there is just one day of the week that remains barren among this crowded landscape: Friday.

Tonight there will be fixtures in several of the other major leagues around Europe. In Ligue 1 in France, Marseille will host Ajaccio; in the Bundesliga in Germany, Hamburg are at home to Bayer Leverkusen; and in Spain's La Liga, Almeria do battle with Osasuna.

In the Premier League tonight, however, every player will either be sitting on their sofa at home or on a bed in their hotel room.

The Premier League have traditionally not shown any interest in staging Friday night fixtures outside of the holiday periods of Easter and Christmas.

The television companies play a large role in dictating the schedules; Sky brought football to Monday nights to replicate the NFL back in 1992, but at the moment there is a Friday night slot in the contracts currently held by Sky and BT. 

I find myself torn on this issue. I am a traditionalist and bemoan the undermining of the Saturday 3 p.m. kick-off, which I believe should remain the centrepiece of the Premier League weekend.

However, I can also see the attraction of a Friday night game, tapping into the excitement many feel at the start of the weekend, with fans gathering together after work to watch games in the pub. 

It would provide transport issues for fans actually attending the games, but they already do this for games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and have to be back for work in the morning, when on a Friday many would not have to be up early the next day and have the weekend to recover.

Michel Euler

Saturated in football throughout the week, there is a strong argument that it is good to have at least one day without it.

As it stands there is no major appetite from the Premier League, the television companies or the fans for Friday night football.

But there is one important constituency who have started lobbying for more games on Fridays: the leading clubs themselves.

Last month Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho spoke out in favour of Friday night fixtures, largely because it would help English teams in the Champions League.

Mourinho was frustrated that Chelsea were playing in a 5:30 p.m. kick-off against Aston Villa on a Saturday night when they had to play Galatasaray in a Champions League tie on the Tuesday night, and believed the game should have been moved to the Friday night instead.  

On the continent teams are often allowed to move their games to a Friday night to give them more time before they play an important Champions League game.

As reported by the BBC, Mourinho said,

If we played on Friday night, it makes a difference to who? It'd be a full house, the same. If it was the only match on TV, the (audience) share would be fantastic. Would it be good for Chelsea? Yes. Would it be good for English football? Yes.

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Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson agrees, and last season the Scot also wanted more flexibility for Premier League sides playing in the Champions League. As reported by Matt Barlow in The Daily Mail, Ferguson said: "There’s no fairness at all. We’re not giving our teams a chance to be successful in Europe."

Of course, only four of the 20 teams in the Premier League play in the Champions League, and so the other 16 are not particularly interested in helping their bigger rivals, already bloated with extra revenue from the competition, by moving games to give them even more rest.

The smaller teams have more chance of beating a Champions League side if they are tired, and naturally they want to keep it that way.

For the moment, Friday nights will remain a football-free zone in England.

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