3(pm): The Magic Number
During the 2002-2003 season Manchester United will play a total of 41 matches in the league and FA Cup. By the end of the season, United will have played league games on every day of the week and at a total of 16 different kick-off times. With (at time of writing) four league match kick-off times still to be decided, United are scheduled to play a mere ten matches at what most supporters will consider to be the "traditional" kick-off time of 3pm on a Saturday. That's ten out of forty-one.
In contrast 16 league and Cup matches this season will take place at "lunchtime" (kick-off between 12 noon and 1pm). It appears to all intents and purposes that this is now the norm for United supporters.
IMUSA considers this situation to be verging on the ridiculous - and feedback both from our members and from the general atmosphere inside and around the ground seems to indicate that this is a feeling common amongst United fans. Already this season we have been subjected to a game kicking-off in London on a Friday evening (Chelsea away), our away games at Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester City switched to a lunchtime kick-off at the behest of television and ALL our FA Cup games kicking-off at around midday (and all, also, moved to accommodate a TV audience).
Consider this fact: a Manchester United season-ticket holder has been able to watch his or her team kick-off at home on the grand total of five occasions this season at 3pm on a Saturday (none of them since Christmas), and it is likely that the rest of the season will continue without a single other home 3pm kick-off. This situation is little better away from home, where the match against West Brom in January was the first 3pm kick-off since Fulham in October.
Not only does this constant changing of kick-off times to suit the needs of tv or the whims of the police (several potentially volatile matches such as the Sheffield derby have had evening kick-offs this season, yet United games are often moved to lunchtime on police advice) effect atmosphere during the games, but it also shows a complete lack of regard shown to the travelling supporter. A supporter travelling from Manchester to London for a lunchtime kick-off will have to set out at the crack of dawn and will find it almost impossible to get a drink or meet up with friends before the match. The traditional match-going experience and atmosphere is being constantly eroded to cater for a new television audience. IMUSA believes that at least 50% of a club's domestic matches should kick-off at 3pm on a Saturday - thereby ensuring that inconvenience to both home and travelling supporters in
Although the problem of changing kick-off times is one that affects United more than any other club due to us being on television more than anyone else, every club in the Premier League has seen a shift from the traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off. Travelling Fulham supporters, for example, are having to get up to Manchester for a 12:30 kick-off when they play us on the 22nd March - it is for this reason that we have chosen to start a visible campaign in favour of a return to majority 3pm Saturday kick-offs at this fixture. We are seeking support and cooperation from other clubs supporters' associations in an effort to make this a truly national issue.