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Last week we posted a photo of a protest by Aberdeen fans in Scotland regarding the lack of consideration shown to fans who show up in the flesh at games: Fans Before TV – 12.45 Isn’t On, their banner stated, referring to the early 12.45pm kickoff for the Dons’ Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic on April 17th. Here’s a reminder:
What we didn’t know until Scotzine pointed it out in the comments was that fans of Aberdeen’s opponents that day, Celtic, made exactly the same point with a banner of their own that read “It’s time to put fans before TV”.
It’s not exactly a new story that television has become the dominant force in scheduling games. The days of uniform Saturday 3pm kickoffs are, of course, numbered in Britain, and have been for some time.
Still, the growing disaffection with the last-minute schedule changes and difficulties on group travel that result from fan unfriendly kickoff times is certainly spreading. For once, Rangers fans agree with their Old Firm rivals, this month also holding up a “Fans Before TV” banner.
Moreover, as you can tell from the photo, that Aberdeen-Celtic semi-final was not exactly a packed house, with Scotzine noting “The stadium was far from full with around 20,000 seats left empty, a sizeable chunk in the Aberdeen end.”
In part, this seems to be because the 12.45pm kick-off time did not take into account train timetables: the earliest train to arrive from Aberdeen that day was at 12.20pm, giving fans barely enough time to scoot over to the stadium in time for kickoff.
It was also the second protest in a month for Celtic fans, who expressed their disapproval at a 6pm kickoff on a TUESDAY by tossing a dozen extra footballs onto the pitch right at kickoff for their April 12th game against Motherwell.
There will be many who will say: who cares. Television pays their money and makes their choice. But it could also be one factor contributing to a drastic fall in attendances across the Scottish Premier League this season. Aberdeen’s crowds are down about 10% to 9,769 per game, leaving just four Scottish Premier League teams averaging above 10,000 for the season. League-wide, the average attendance is 13,783 for 2010-11, dipping from last season’s 13,915 and even worse, down from 15,537 in 2008-09.
Again, kick-off times are only one element of many challenges facing Scottish teams that aren’t named Rangers or Celtic. That said, what had once been a habit going back generations – going to games set on a predictable schedule – is now becoming a chore just to keep track of for fans.