Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fixtures and flittings

Update: By the season's end Hibs will have endured 16 different kick off times. Here's a fresher look at the situation from 4th April - Hibs: That's Fife

Confirmation that Hibs and Aberdeen will contest the Scottish Cup semi final at 12.15 on Saturday 14th April brought forth a predictable reaction.

Another chance to join the gnashing of teeth over badly chosen kick off times for semi finals. And should we really be playing this game at Hampden anyway?

Such complaints are now traditions, entwined with the venerable trophy.

Agree with them or not, it's a Scottish Cup semi final. (Some) people would go if it was played on a wet Wednesday morning at the Basingstoke Bowl.

The resurfacing of this annual argy-bargy did get me thinking though: Hibs face five different kick off times in their next five games.

At the end of that run they will, by my reckoning, have kicked off at 13 different times this season.


Unlucky for some.

Here's the dirty baker's dozen:
  • Tuesday - 7.45 pm
  • Wednesday - 7.15 pm
  • Wednesday - 7.45 pm
  • Friday - 7.45 pm
  • Saturday - 12.15 pm
  • Saturday - 12.30 pm
  • Saturday - 1.30 pm
  • Saturday - 3 pm
  • Sunday - 12 pm
  • Sunday - 12.15 pm
  • Sunday - 12.30 pm
  • Sunday - 3 pm
  • Sunday - 3.45 pm
I'm sure supporters of other SPL clubs will have similar tales of woe.

There are many reasons why crowds at Easter Road have been dwindling in recent seasons.

Build all the nice facilities your prudent housekeeping will stretch to but you still need to give people something half decent to watch when they're there.

Hibs have failed the fit and proper person test for football's crucial raison d'etre: they've been a bit rubbish at playing football.

But the scheduling can't help.

Supporting a football team can be a labour of love and it can be a financial drain.

It can also be a habit. A habit that, once broken, might never return.

So why are we making it so difficult for supporters to support their clubs?

Lives are getting busier. There's a world of competition for the leisure time of a populace that is quite unrecognisable to the one that powered Scottish football's post Second World War boom.

Yet the scheduling of home games in the SPL is all over the place. Away games have become a test of endurance for those with time and cash to spare.

That can't be right.

Football, we're told, is a business now. Businesses shouldn't treat consumers like this and expect to thrive.

TV is the major culprit. I think most of us now accept that we can't roll back the influence of the broadcasters.

But even here Scotland looks to be losing out. We don't have the consistency of coverage that we need to build our brand.

Treated like filler, thought of as filler. And given no platform to grow.

We're the Diagnosis Murder of TV football. We might never be a Sherlock or a Downton Abbey. But it would be nice to try and prove ourselves as a Countryfile or a One Show.

Instead we've got TV deals that don't really deliver the way it should but which dictates a schedule that sickens fans.

So, as the fans lose out, Scottish football proudly straddles the worst of both worlds.

That has to change.

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