Fans respond to 2017/18 Premier League fixtures

A working group set up under the auspices of the Football Supporters' Federation, made up of representatives from  Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust and Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly, has been meeting the broadcasters to fight for a better deal for match-going fans. This group was formed at, and reports to, the 20 fan reps who make up the Premier League Structured Dialogue group. Tim Rolls (Chelsea Supporters' Trust) explains more on behalf of the working group...

Fixtures for the 2017/18 Premier League season were announced this morning and fans immediately began looking at the challenges we will face to support our teams.

 

Packed stadiums and a vibrant atmosphere are key parts of the ‘product’ the Premier League sells to broadcasters. But anti-social kick-off times, midweek journeys the length of the country when no public transport is available and short notice rearrangements for TV purposes are making it increasingly difficult for fans to get to games.

Premier League fan groups, backed by the Football Supporters' Federation have been pressing the case for fans to be given more consideration when fixtures are being scheduled. Our analysis of this season’s fixtures reveals a number of issues of clear concern. This link shows the detail which underpins the analysis:

 

Fixtures between 25th November and 1st January

 

§  Clubs play ten Premier League games between 25th November and 1st January, five at home and five away. To put this into context, two years ago clubs played seven league games in this period. This is in addition to potential League Cup and European ties that some clubs will have on 20th December and 5-7 December respectively.

§  This means that over this period, where family commitments and money are at a premium for many supporters, supporters face two league games a week for five weeks. Little or no effort has been made by the Premier League to try and minimize away travel, given that Newcastle United supporters travelling to all five games will face three trips to London in that time, and travel a total of 2484 miles. Ten sets of match-going supporters face round trips totaling in excess of 1500 miles. Inevitably, some supporters will have to make hard choices with regards to match attendance.

§  The glut of games over this period is apparently due to the impending World Cup in Russia. It is unclear why this World Cup is so different from other major tournaments and it is to be hoped that future World Cups and European Championships do not lead to a recurrence.

 

Scheduled Midweek Fixtures

§  There are three tranches of midweek games – 28/29 November, 12/13 December and 30/31 January. As in previous seasons, the impact on away supporters of these midweek fixtures is significant and to be regretted. For 70% of these games, away supporters driving would get home after midnight and for 63% of midweek games there is no scheduled service train home. As an example, Burnley supporters travelling to Bournemouth face a return trip of 570 miles on a Tuesday night, Bournemouth supporters themselves facing a 500 mile round trip to Manchester. 

 

Televised Fixtures

 §  The August and September television fixtures are due to be announced on 10th July and a further analysis of those will be carried out at that time. It is unclear why the September and October televised games are scheduled to be announced on 11th August, the day before the season starts. Earlier announcement of these would enable match-going supporters to take advantage of cheaper train fares.

This analysis adds to the report published earlier this year that can be found here (Word doc full report) and here (Excel sheet fixture-by-fixture analysis). We looked at rearranged, midweek and festive matches in terms of timing, distance and availability of scheduled rail services over a five-year period and made a series of recommendations.

The report highlighted several issues, including:

·         The inability of the Premier League to reflect the needs of away supporters when scheduling midweek fixture tranches (e.g. on 13th/14th December 2016, each of the 10 PL games required a round trip for away supporters of 280+ miles).

·         The lack of consideration of the impact on away supporters in terms of distance and availability of public transport when matches are rescheduled for live TV.

·         The monetary impact of late fixture rearrangements on supporters travelling by rail.

·         The lack of co-ordination between the Premier League, broadcasters and rail companies to consider scheduled line closures when selecting televised fixtures and when compiling the fixture list.

·         Membership surveys by Trusts at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea made clear the impact of anti-social kick-off times on supporters’ ability to attend affected matches.

A working group was set up under the auspices of the Football Supporters' Federation with members from Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (Tim Rolls), Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust (Kat Law) and Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly (Anna Burgess) leading this project. The group sought meetings with broadcasters and the Premier League to put the fan perspective, based on the research carried out.

 

Separate meetings with executives from Sky Sports, BT Sport and the Premier League were held in February, March and April. The issue was also raised at the multi-topic ‘structured dialogue’ meeting between Premier League supporters’ representatives and Premier League executives in April.

Fan reps believed we had made a positive start in getting all stakeholders to recognise the issues. And we believed at least some of the points we put forward were being acknowledged.

So we note with anger recent media reports suggesting the Premier League is considering late Sunday morning kick offs from the 2019 broadcast cycle to meet the demands of the Far Eastern TV companies. Further reports strongly suggest 7.45pm on Saturday kick offs will be introduced from 2019.

None of these proposals were floated at any of our meetings, although we were lobbied to oppose the Saturday 3pm blackout on televised matches – a request we categorically turned down.

The Premier League is keen to promote the idea that it is genuine in wanting “dialogue” with supporter organisations. Yet it has so far refused to commit to a grown-up discussion at the same table as fan reps and the TV companies.

BT Sport, reported as being a driving force behind the push for Saturday night kick-offs, have not even had the courtesy to reply to a request to sign off minutes from the meeting they held with fan reps or to respond to follow-up communication.

Sky have indicated an understanding of the issues facing fans, and a willingness to meet with fans and the Premier League.

The new proposals would cause significant travel problems for both home and away supporters, and we strongly oppose any such moves. The case for effective supporter input into decisions which directly affect us is undeniable. We are determined to make our voices heard on this subject, one which fundamentally impacts on match-going supporters, the lifeblood of the game. We will take whatever steps we feel appropriate to publicise legitimate supporter concerns. 

Backed by:

·         Blue Union

·         Burnley FC Supporters Groups

·         Chelsea Supporters Trust

·         Cherries Trust

·         Clarets Trust

·         Everton Supporters Trust

·         Football Supporters' Federation

·         Leicester City Supporters Trust

·         Manchester City Supporters Club

·         Manchester United Supporters Trust

·         The Ugly Inside

·         Spirit Of Shankly

·         Supporters Direct

·         Swans Trust

·         Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust

·         Watford Supporters Trust

·         West Ham United Independent Supporters Association

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End Of Season Review 2016-17 Part One B

Today we feature part two of Colin Murrant’s views, Colin being the first of our match reporting team looking back at last season and forwards to what we want next time around

Kasper won the Player of the Year Awards, would he have been your choice and who else do you think deserves praise for their performances

Kasper was the most consistent player and he has grown as a player. His game has developed and his shot stopping is second to none, his dealing with crosses has improved. His one outstanding weakness is his kicking which is very erratic and can be both brilliant or dreadful. His one asset that shines above all else is his motivation, his drive, his desire to win. He is the best leader on the park by a country mile. Articulate and often spokesmen for the players, one the media turn to.My Choice as PoY.

Consistency and effort have been the most desirable attributes this season. The three I put in this category are Simpson, Albrighton and Ndidi. Others probably shone more brightly in other games but these three gave it all regularly in my opinion.

Which player do you think made the most progress last season and why?

Wilfred Ndidi. He is still young and raw and an amazing prospect. His debut in the FA Cup at Everton was described by some as the best ever City debut. He won his first two aerial battels against Lukaku which set the tone, he did get caught in possession a few times but has soon got up to speed with the demands of the PL.

He is still only 20 but his confidence shines through and, as Derby and Stoke can testify, he has a wicked shot. His partnership with Drinkwater looks promising and has allowed the latter to be more attack minded by taking a lot of the defensive duties away.

He seems very likeable and level headed. The recent paper-talk about a move away from the King Power were quickly denied by the player which is a refreshing change from the stony silence that usually is greeted by such stories. I believe he will show a lot of loyalty to the Club and be a mainstay of the team for years to come.

Which player did you think underperformed the most last season and why?

I would have said Slimani but I don’t know what his normal performance levels are.

I do not like particularly singling out one player, particularly last season when I think the group were poor, many players performed below their Championship winning standards. But in the spirit of the question, and not being one to sit on the fence, I will go for Riyad Mahrez. At times he has been sensational this season, but all too often he seemed to lack enthusiasm. He was marked heavily this year, teams doubling up or even trebling up on him. That left more space for other players but we never exploited it, too often Mahrez lost the ball going into a blind alley.

In terms of the sort of player he is, to me he is a luxury player in a team playing well. We know he is so skilful, such a flair player. I would suggest he is the most skilful player I have seen at Leicester since I started going to matches in the early sixties. However, truly great players lift teams that are struggling and I think he did not do that enough last year.

So I think he disappointed more than most, but he was one of the stars when we won the PL Title so I feel uneasy in naming him.

What were your views on the signings made during last season?

One of the reasons for Ranieri’s failure I believe: we should have bought some players with PL experience.

Ndidi – excellent as stated above.

Musa - disappointing. I think his best position is the Vardy role. He was sensational in the FA Cup tie at Everton. He also scored two goals in that position in the Barcelona match in Stockholm. Opportunities may not have come his way but he has not really shone in the few he had.

Kapustka – who knows? I was really pleased we signed him after his showing in the European Championship. I think he has ability in the matches I have seen him play, I hope he gets another chance.

Mendy – jury out. Injury ravaged season and looked good with Ndidi and Drinkwater at Everton. He was a Ranieri player as they were at Monaco together. Again, I hope he gets another chance to attune to the rigours of the English game.

Slimani – laid back. I am assuming we do not play to his strengths as his scoring record suggests he is a better player than we have witnessed. Heading in the box is his strength but he cannot hold up play nor does he win many headers in open play. Saw glimpses at times with his link up play with Vardy (e.g.  Man City) but not often enough. If Shakey can find a formula that suits Vardy and Slimani we may have a player, but not optimistic about this happening.

For match reporters who attended away games, which ground gave you your best away experience and why?

The Etihad. Wonderful stadium, tram direct to ground. Bars, bands, food outside the ground with live interviews on mammoth screens. Inside the ground good seating near the pitch and humorous (mostly) with the Mancs.

Moving onto next season

What changes do you think are necessary to improve on this year’s squad?

A lot: New defenders, two centre backs, cannot rely on Huth and Benalouane as the former is like most of the back 4 well into his 30s, Yohan a red card waiting to happen.

I think Sam Hughes is bought as full back cover, Chilwell looks more like a wing back to me as he gets caught too often by wingers going past him on the outside.

Creative midfielder as we have lacked in that area this season.

Okazaki replacement, he falls over too often and doesn’t score enough goals. Deeney would fill that role superbly but I think he will not come given the fact we failed to get him last summer when we had the CL to offer. I also understand that Watford paid him substantially more than any Leicester player is receiving, in order to keep him at Vicarage Road.

While watching Premiership games during the 2016/7 season, which player from another club would you advise Shakey to sign?

Gylfi Sigurðsson, the creative midfielder I crave for. I know there are rumours at the moment about City buying him but I felt we should have signed him last season. So elegant, wonderful passing ability and a great free kick.

After all, FIFA17 never get it wrong;

SHOOTING

Positioning            80

Finishing               81

Shot Power           82

Long Shots           83

Volleys                 75

Penalties               80

PASSING

Vision                     84

Crossing                81

Free Kick               88

Short Passing       83

Long Passing        75

Curve                     86

What would you set as the targets(s) for next season?

Foremost I hope to see a lot more enthusiasm, desire and grit amongst the side; also creativity. A lot less reliance on Jamie Vardy for the goals. I think the recruitment is vital as the defence is ageing; the midfield looks weak if we sustain any injuries. If we resolve these issues then I think we could finish in the top 10 but more comfortably than we did his year to finish 12th. It is impossible to even have an educated guess at this stage given what could happen at City and the unknowns around what will happen at other clubs in the way of transfers in and out.

I do not see the promoted clubs being a threat and there were several teams above us in the Final table that I would expect us to finish above: therefore I go for 8th.

I hope we take the FA Cup seriously and believe that any club that does can progress to the latter stages depending on the draw; a home tie would be nice for a change. I was amazed how teams well up in the league, but not title contenders, put weak teams out last year in the 3rd round and were eliminated.

So final of one of the cups would be my target with an expectation to reach the semi-finals.

Any other observation you would like to make

I though we looked splendid in our Blue shirts, white shorts and white socks at Atletico Madrid away. I am a traditionalist and hate the passing of the white shorts. Also in 2017/18, the white has disappeared completely from our shirts to be replaced by gold: sacrilege! The Club will do well to remember and respect our heritage, it is change by stealth.

I wish Shakey all the best but he would not have been my choice as I still see him as a Coach. There seems to be good support for Shakey from the players but I think keeping the team spirit together as it is now, ‘The Band of Brothers ‘ cannot go on forever. I thought we would have a higher profile manager as what we have to offer a prospective player is much less that at the start of the 2016/17 season: I thought the club would need a higher profile boss for their brand image as well.

Having said that, the Thais have not let us down to date (kit apart) and so in them we trust.

The King is dead, long live the King

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation

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End Of Season Review 2016-17 Part One A

Today is the first of a series of articles from our match reporting team looking back at last season and forwards to what we want next time around and we kick off with the view of Colin Murrant who made his reporting debut with Hull away and covered 9 away games in total. Colin’s article is split into two parts.

Before the season started what were your hopes on what we could achieve?

My expectations were a top 10 finish in the Premier League and getting out of the Group Stages of the Champions League. If it had not been for an incorrect offside decision by the linesman in the last game of the season against Bournemouth, Vardy’s goal would have stood and we would have finished in 9th. The Champions League (CL) was amazing and we not only comfortably got out of the group but progressed to the quarter finals.

So on that basis out of 10, how would you rate last season overall and why?

On that basis, it should be a 10 if viewed against my expectations but, in reality, it was a disappointing Premier League (PL) campaign when at times I came away thinking we could be relegated, Southampton and Swansea away come to mind. So, 10 for the CL and 6 for the PL, with a weighted average of 7 given the PL makes up the majority of the matches.

Starting with the CL, the Group was relatively week compared to others but City cruised it. The only real problem was Porto away when City had qualified and Ranieri put out a very weak team. The first fixture in Bruges was surreal listening to the UEFA Champions League Anthem live for the first time, and then the match, a 3-0 win, and the realisation that we could compete at this level. The rest of the group stage, Porto away apart, was very competitive with a back to the wall performance in Copenhagen being particularly memorable for Schmeichel’s wonderful performance with a broken hand.

The last 16 in Seville saw City played off the park in the first 60 minutes, then a goal from nowhere when Drinkwater set up Vardy, lifted the team (Drinkwater and Vardy in particular) and City then looked far more comfortable. It was interesting that Claudio, subsequent to his dismissal, said he thought that goal was the moment in the season when he sensed our season changed. I fully agree with that, the confidence oozed back in players and supporters alike; talking to fans after the match, there was confidence that we would turn the tie around in the return leg. That we did so is history, and the Blue Army re-assembled in Madrid to take on the nemesis of our European dreams for the third time. A wonderful adventure and beating my expectations, 5 Champions League home matches with 4 wins and a draw. My only disappointment being we didn’t play one of the real giants, Barca or Real or Bayern.

Apart from home matches against Manchester City, Liverpool and Stoke, the latter 2 after Ranieri’s departure, I cannot recall any PL performances that came near to the title winning standards. Away was a virtual disaster with only 2 away wins all season against a struggling West Ham at the abysmal football arena that is the London Stadium, and WBA which is becoming a regular 3 points. When I came away from The Etihad in February ’16 I had that realisation that we could win the PL, when I came away from the Liberty Stadium in February ’17 I had the realisation that we could get relegated.

I should also mention the FA Cup. After good performance at Everton, a replay win over Derby, to go to Millwall and play as badly as we did there in the sixth round was a huge let down.

In terms of why this happened it is not one single thing, the fact is the players did not play for Ranieri (ditto Chelsea players for Jose Mourinho twelve months earlier), the loss of Kante, the poor integration of the new players. The distractions of accolades ongoing throughout the season all contributed.

Why do you think we had relative success in the Champions League while struggling in the Premier League ?

Above all else, the fact we were in the CL was for most of the players and the fans alike way beyond their expectations. This was an opportunity to eat at the same table as the best in Europe, a chance we might never have again; it just had to be our priority. There were some alarming results before each CL group match; all away matches. The first three were 3 goal margin losses at Liverpool, Man Utd and Chelsea; all shocking performances. We then drew at Tottenham but then lost at Watford and Sunderland as the rot truly set in. In the knock out sages, defeats at Millwall and Everton continued the pattern with a draw at Crystal Palace and a win at home to Hull being the only positive results.

Having said the CL had to be our priority was OK if, as expected we had a relatively comfortable passage in the PL, this did not transpire. Ranieri tried to change tactics and we lost our way. I remember doing the report for Southampton away and not realising what the formation was until

I got back home and watched the match on MOTD2. Danny Murphy explained it was a diamond shape, this seemed obvious at kick off, but then immediately disappeared. At one time a table cloth could have been thrown over the 4 midfielders …. All on the left touchline. Stoke away was a creditable performance with a second half fight back after Vardy had been harshly sent off, and City were 2-0 down at half time. As the teams went off at half time, Kasper pulled Claudio away from the referee and there have been strong rumours, that the former took over the dressing room at half time dictating tactics and rallying the troops. Whatever the truth it was an inspiring second half.

One noticeable change on the touchline this year was the increasingly fall off in communication between Ranieri and Shakespeare. The previous season there had been close and regular conversations during the match. It was noticeable that this was not happening anymore, you sensed a distancing between the manager and his assistant.

Other issues arose, there seemed to be awards every other week for City and Ranieri, it seemed we were still celebrating the title: SPOTY Team award, Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco, the prestigious Gianni Brera award, Fifa Best Male Coach in Zurich etc. Even after his sacking Ranieri received an award from the Mayor of Rome. Perhaps we celebrated too long!

Leonardo Ulloa had a rant when he was denied a move to Sunderland, accusing Ranieri of betrayal. Word was out that Ranieri was only turning up to training occasionally and then changing tactics for the upcoming match; other rumours that he was getting more involved with training from the outset this season: these seemed to contradict and we may never know but something was not right.

Summer signings had failed to integrate with only the impressive Ndidi signed in January getting a regular start. It appeared we have squandered £70m on Mendy (injured most of the season), Musa (seldom has he shone), Kapustka (not fancied by Ranieri), and Slimani (looked less than interested at times). Ranieri continued to play Musa when the crowd wanted to see more of Demari Gray who was showing directness and pace if, albeit, a little naivety at times.

The African Nations Cup in January impacted City more than most although the hope was that Mahrez and Slimani would come back refreshed after a successful tournament. In the event Algeria got knocked out in the Group Stages and the two returned to the King Power with more disappointment and weight on their shoulders.

When it was announced, did you agree with the sacking of Claudio Ranieri?

I can answer this very clearly as I was interviewed on Premier TV the day after the Liverpool match when we won 3-1. My response was, it was like someone dying suddenly (without wishing to trivialise death and at the fear of upsetting those that mourn). Ranieri loved us, we loved him. The wonderful things we had done together, the dreams we had lived, beyond our dreams in reality. The harshness and suddenness of his departure shocked, the decision didn’t.

The results, the risk of relegation, no one and no Board can just let relegation happen. It was, as Albert Einstein said, Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results: the same drivel was being served up every week. It annoyed me that pundits, ex-players were lining up against the club and the players with quotes to the effect that, because of the previous season triumph, Ranieri had earned the right to take Leicester down. The players had betrayed him, meetings with owners had helped seal the decision. Pundits, how dare you? This is our Leicester; your views do not matter one iota.

The night of the Liverpool match was emotional but no measurable protests, the 65th minute shining of phone lights and the singing of the Ranieri song was a lump in throat, sand in eye moment. Like so many other moments on this wonderful journey I will never forget: Andrea Bocelli singing, 3-1 at Man City (my most enjoyable match ever), Victoria Park, lifting the Trophy, The CL, your part in, at 2 years, the longest party I have been to. We have witnessed things probably no other fans have or ever will.

I will forever love you Claudio for what you gave me but the time was right to end it, City stayed in the PL and your legacy is assured.

And now with the benefit of seeing the results, were the owners proved right?

The owners are foremost business men, they appear amicable, they have supported the club and the city, but as businessmen they need to protect their brand and the club. They made the right decision although it could well have been handled better.

I would love Claudio to be invited back one day to receive the applause and appreciation from the fans. Just build that statue!

What was your personal highlight of the season?

Easy, Sevilla away.

  • ·         Going to the ground in a horse and carriage with my son and friends
  • ·         Great camaraderie on the plane from Glasgow (yes, lots of City fans on there, really), drink and conversation with Foxes fans at Malaga hotel, banter on train to and from Malaga to Sevilla.
  • ·         Lovely atmosphere around town on day of match and engagement with Sevilla fans who were a friendly lot.
  • ·         Beautiful City.
  • ·         Watching the match in shirt sleeves in February and superb atmosphere inside the stadium.
  • ·         Excellent result and optimism of progressing to next round.
  • ·         The Blue Army singing ‘I’m a Believer’ when locked in after the final whistle.
  • ·         After the match, walk uptown and eating a late-night meal with two new friends we now call the ’Pizza Boys’ (David Luiz look alike and his brother).
  • ·         All personal memories but unforgettable.

Part B of Colin's views will appear later this week

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation

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Season Ticket Better Value Than TV Subscription

The respected industry publication FC Business has been investigating the cost of watching football and has calculated that a subscription to both Sky Sports and BT Sport costs more than a season ticket at 19 of the Premier League’s 20 football clubs in the season 2016/7.

 

Therefore football fans could get better value for money next season by going to the games of their favourite team, however without stadium expansion at the King Power Stadium, this is currently unachievable except for the Gold Members from last season who are drawn out of the ballot for season tickets that have become available recently after the deadline for renewal had passed.

Previous research found that almost a quarter (24%) of people who pay for sports channels admit to watching just one hour or less of sports content a week.

The full article is available here http://fcbusiness.co.uk/news/article/newsitem=4981/title=season+ticket+better+value+than+tv+subscription?utm_source=All+Football&utm_campaign=6ea9d5fe03-fcbnews26052017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b33754a738-6ea9d5fe03-412231313

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Football Supporters Federation (FSF)- National Supporters Survey 2017 Launched

Every few years the FSF hold a national supporters survey to assess the state of the game and its fans  - and you can take part by clicking on the following link 2017 National Supporters Survey now.

 

The last of these censuses was carried out in 2012 with more than 4,000 supporters from 130 different clubs completing our survey. Football and football supporters have moved on significantly in the intervening five years – particularly the way we talk to and about our clubs through social media and watch matches across various digital platforms.

 

Questions covered include how many matches you go to, if you’re part of any fan groups like the Foxes Trust, where do you get news about your club, do you back video technology? Are you against the idea of a winter break?

 

The 2012 football fan – what did we think?

Here’s a sample of some of the results:

·         51.2% and 58.5% had watched a match via illegal streams in a pub or at home on the internet respectively

·         Only 12.4% thought holding FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley Stadium was a good idea

·         A large majority of supporters agreed that video technology should be used to help referees (79.9%)

·         Just over half of football fans, 51.6%, thought swearing and similar types of abuse was part of watching football.

 

FSF Chief executive Kevin Miles said: “When it comes to the health of the game there’s no-one whose opinion matters more than that of football supporters.

“Our National Supporters Survey is the largest of its kind, canvassing the views of supporters up and down the country. We want fans to tell us what really matters to them in 2017.”

 

Despite being a comprehensive survey covering a range of topics, it should take the average user around eight to ten minutes to complete.

The results of the survey will be published before the start of the 2017-18 season.

 

The Foxes Trust would also remind Trust members to complete the member’s survey that was e-mailed out recently covering member’s experiences of the Champions League and whether views have changed about safe standing from the original 2012 survey. If you haven’t received the Foxes Trust survey e-mail mail@foxestrust.com for a link.

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