x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Spanish fans switch off for late kick-off times

If you thought the influence of television on Spanish football could not get any more ridiculous, you were wrong, says Andy Mitten.

epa03366360 Real Zaragoza's Portuguese player Helder Postiga (L) fights for the ball with Valladolid's Mikel Balenziaga, during their primera division match, in Zaragoza, Spain, 20 August 2012. EPA/TONI GALAN *** Local Caption *** 03366360.jpg
epa03366360 Real Zaragoza's Portuguese player Helder Postiga (L) fights for the ball with Valladolid's Mikel Balenziaga, during their primera division match, in Zaragoza, Spain, 20 August 2012. EPA/TONI GALAN *** Local Caption *** 03366360.jpg

If you thought the influence of television on Spanish football could not get any more ridiculous, you were wrong. Real Zaragoza and promoted Valladolid kicked off their season at 11pm local time on Monday night. Spanish games used to kick off at 5pm on Sunday afternoons.

Thanks to the influence of television, there are now nine different slots for the 10 games, starting at 6pm Saturday and finishing, for the next few weeks at least, at 11pm on Monday.

With the game finishing in the small hours of Tuesday, what kind of message does that send to fans who have work the next day? The late kick-off time excludes families, too. What parent wants to put their child to bed at 2am with school the next day?

Spanish football should try being more inclusive, not exclude people who want to attend games. Match-going fans are the lifeblood, the ones who pay the most to watch their team, the ones who create the atmosphere for the TV spectacle.

An empty stadium kills the event, both for the fans present and the TV viewer. Just 11,000 fans attended the game - less than half Zaragoza's average last season. Those fans held up banners in protest. The players didn't like the kick-off time either, but were careful not to speak out against the league which sanctions the television deal.

What of television, for whom the game was scheduled so late? Broadcast on a free-to-air channel, it attracted the lowest viewing figures in the last three years. Zaragoza lost 1-0 in a dire contest.

sports@thenational.ae

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