As you’re probably aware, Arsenal’s match with BATE Borisov at the Emirates will kick off at the unusual time of 5.55pm tomorrow.
Why so? It all comes down to UEFA. Not wanting a clash with Chelsea’s home Europa League match with Malmo, scheduled for 8pm, they dictated that ours should be brought forward. Why is our match moving and not Chelsea’s? For the simple reason that they’ve won the tournament and we haven’t, so, therefore, they have priority.
Originally, it was stipulated that the match would take place at 5pm on Wednesday (today) but UEFA moved it after complaints from Arsenal. When the final timing was confirmed back in December, the Gunners hierarchy were quick to acknowledge how inconvenient it would be for the home fans.
A statement read: “We appreciate this kick-off time may present difficulties for supporters and matchday staff and we would have preferred for the match to kick-off at 8pm, as has been the case for all our home matches in this season’s group stage. We thank everyone in advance for their support in relation to this kick-off time which is not in our control.”
Obviously, it’s a pain in the hole for people who are working and will likely lead to empty seats, something that the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust have raised with UEFA president Alexander Ceferin.
Eager for assurances that this won’t happen again, they’ve penned him a letter. You can read it in full below.
Knowing UEFA it’ll be filed in the bin, but you can’t fault the effort.
Route de Genève 46
CH-1260 Nyon 2
19 February 2019
Dear Aleksander Ceferin
We are writing with regard to Arsenal’s match against Bate this coming Thursday in the Europa League which will kick off at 17.55pm on Thursday.
This is a totally unacceptable and inconvenient kick off time for a vast number of Arsenal fans who have to travel to the game after work from across London, the South East and further afield.
The result will be a huge number of empty seats and many fans having to pay for a ticket on their season tickets which they cannot use.
This is both unfair on Arsenal supporters and will lead to a poor atmosphere in the stadium.
We are sure that TV coverage will be the explanation for this kick off time but such decision-making fails to recognise that watching football on TV is enhanced as a spectacle when there is a full ground and good atmosphere.
Increasingly we are seeing TV companies dictate the kick off time and the actual match going fan becoming more and more a secondary consideration but this forthcoming UEFA league match takes things to an unprecedented new level.
Please can you respond to us and explain why UEFA believes that 17.55 is an appropriate kick-off time? What suggestions do you have for supporters who have paid for season tickets but cannot make this kick-off time?
Can you also give a reassurance that having been faced with this situation that UEFA will ensure that such scheduling does not occur again.
We look forward to hearing from you and are available to discuss with you or a relevant colleague.
Arsenal Supporters’ Trust