UEFA’s rule change to Champions League and Europa League kick-off times a disaster for British fans

It’s half seven on a Tuesday night. You settle down on the sofa with your takeaway curry, lights dimmed as the Champions League anthem belts from the TV. If Carlsberg did evenings…

In a sense they used, but as the former Champions League sponsor moved on from football’s elite European competition, it seems as though the sparkle of those special nights may soon depart us as well.

As it stands, all Champions League games kick-off at 19:45 BST/GMT, although UEFA can make exceptions.

But staggered kick-off times are to be introduced next season, with two group stage matches on a Tuesday and two on a Wednesday kicking off at 17:55.

The notion of earlier matches is bound to cause huge concern for British fans, who may not be able to get to stadiums on time when battling the evening rush-hour commute.

“When the FA Cup final isn’t at 3pm, you get a feeling of uneasiness and apprehension. Change can of course be healthy, but in this instance the reputation of the Champions League will only suffer.”

There will certainly be no time to get home first. No time to get changed. No time for a quick dinner. No time to pick the kids up from school if you’re planning on making those first 45 minutes.

On the surface it doesn’t seem like a disaster for fans, but when you pick out the minute details that supporters will have to alter to their match day procedure, all sort of problems arise. Oh, and that’s without mentioning away fans travelling abroad.

Spare some sympathy for the so called ‘arm chair’ fans as well. While the most dedicated of us dash for that bus or train to reach their beloved stadium in time, the special atmosphere the Champions League can create in your own home, such is its greatness, will be just that bit more conventional next year.

It’s hard to summarise exactly why it’s going to be more mundane, but ask any hardcode fan and you’ll find a consensus. Perhaps it’s the lack of suspenseful build-up which only late evening football can provide, the reality that most will be still be tired from work or a combination of this and more.

In the end it boils down to tradition. When the FA Cup final isn’t at 3pm, you get a feeling of uneasiness and apprehension. Change can of course be healthy, but in this instance the reputation of the Champions League will only suffer.


Stamford Bridge under the floodlights on a Champions League night

(Credit: Ben Sutherland :Flickr)

Thankfully, knock out ties will kick-off at the later time of 20:00, yet the early starts for group games could be the beginning of UEFA slowing shifting European matches to earlier slots, probably because common knowledge suggests this will increase viewership in the exponentially rising Asian market.

In additional, Europa League matches from the group stage until the last 16 will kick-off at 17:55 and 20:00. The quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will all commence at 20:00.

It is the change to Champions League times where most criticism will come from though. Indeed it will remain the greatest club competition in the world, there’s no disputing that.

Yet in the eyes of fans, late kick-offs are a quintessential part of its culture, with the change to this being nothing more than a marketing campaign and a nuisance.


(Feature Image credit: Jmartyk :Flickr)

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