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Twitter users accuse Premier League of pandering to the ‘armchair fan’ with 8 pm kickoffs

Twitter users accuse Premier League of pandering to the ‘armchair fan’ with 8 pm kickoffs

The English Premier League is undisputedly the most popular football league in the world. As such, viewership is in the hundreds of thousands for a league game. EPL is also the richest league in the world and in a bid to optimise earnings even further, it has announced that it will schedule the Saturday kick-off at 8 pm, giving rise to sharp debates on social media and elsewhere. Twitter users accused EPL of pandering to the “armchair fan” in the context.

What caused the debate?

EPL has moved the Saturday kick-off timings to 8 pm UTC. Traditionally, the kick-offs have been scheduled for 10 am UTC on Saturday. This departure though, is not altogether unexpected. The Football Association has rescheduled matches in the past for many reasons. This time, however, it is solely to accommodate broadcasting.

This led to irate stadium-going fans — who refer to themselves as “real fans” — lashing out at the FA as well as armchair fans. Twitter user @swfcjohn2 said, “8pm (sic) on a weekend is shocking.”

What is an ‘armchair fan’?

According to the stadium goers, an armchair fan is not a “real supporter” of football. They sit in the comfort of their homes or in pubs and watch the match. Simply put, an armchair fan sits in an armchair and watches the match on television and not at the stadium.

Twitter user @harryWF05 vented, “Why should the fans that spend significant money & time to go to the actual games suffer for the comfort of ‘armchair’ fans…?”

What is the fuss about?

Purists argue that football is played in a stadium and best watched in a stadium. According to them, the essence of football will be lost if crowds stopped showing up to stadiums or were unable to show up.

The 8 pm time is certainly bad news for away fans who would like to see their team play. They have to commute early to the stadium and then commute back again at 10 pm when the match gets over. But one man’s bane is another man’s boon.

Stay-at-home fans now find it even more convenient to watch their favourite team play and the move to shift the time will most probably increase viewer penetration, attracting a larger number of fans to follow the game.

Another Twitter user, @FiftyShadesMCFC, said, “Unbelievable basically armchair fans that don’t care. If no fans go to the game, you have no football, and your club won’t exist

Naturally, many of the divided fans were speaking out about FA’s decision.

Now more than ever, broadcasting rights are raking in the moolah. As such, it makes sense to cater to the section which fills the purse. While a few thousand may feel wrong-footed, we are talking about probably hundreds of thousands of fans here.

The moot question is, however, will football remain the same if there are few takers to stadium tickets? Or will football evolve?