Arsenal travel to Chelsea on Sunday 6th November at the very unusual time of 12pm GMT.
A few Premier League games this season have already raised eyebrows among supporters as their teams have had to play at times unfamiliar to the typical weekend schedule.
Here, The Athletics explains the reasoning behind the timing of Sunday’s London derby.
What are the traditional Premier League kick-off times?
Regular viewers of English football would probably be able to recite the weekly schedule of the Premier League by heart. The weekend usually kicks off at 12.30pm on a Saturday with BT Sport holding the rights to that particular slot. That is, of course, unless a game has been selected for Friday Night Football which tends to kick off in front of the Sky Sports cameras at 8pm.
Due to the English football blackout law, the 3pm games that follow on a Saturday cannot be broadcast in the UK. Since that blackout lifts at 5:15 p.m., a Saturday Night Football game would typically kick off a quarter of an hour later.
Then, on Sunday, Sky Sports usually takes on two Super Sunday games starting at 2pm and 4.30pm. Weekends following the European midweek will see more games on a Sunday involving Arsenal, Manchester United and West Ham this season. There will also occasionally be a Monday night football game which always kicks off at 8pm.
What is the reason for the different television kick-off times?
In this particular scenario, the game had to be moved to the early Sunday slot due to Arsenal’s Europa League commitments. The game is shown live on BT Sport, but the game cannot be played in their usual 12.30pm Saturday slot as the Gunners are in action on Thursday night.
24 hours after Chelsea host Dinamo Zagreb, FC Zurich are in London to take on Arsenal at the Emirates. Mikel Arteta’s side have qualified for the Europa League knockout stage but will be looking to avoid a play-off against one of the Champions League sides; just PSV’s result will secure them first place.
The turnaround between the Thursday night clash and a possible Saturday lunchtime game is too short and it would be unreasonable to expect the current Premier League leaders to play on those days. Instead, they get an extra day to recover and prepare with the game being played, instead being shown on Sunday.
Have kick-off times been criticized before?
Yes, several managers of clubs competing in the Premier League and in Europe expressed their frustration at certain kick-off times. Arteta was actually one of those who criticized the 12:30 Saturday kick-off last season.
After being beaten by Liverpool on a Wednesday night in March, Arsenal had to brace themselves for the early weekend trip to Aston Villa. They were able to win the match 1-0 to strengthen their hold on a top-four spot at the time, but before the match the Spaniard was not happy.
He said: “Big thanks to the Premier League for doing that and they’ve done it again when we have to play against Chelsea and Manchester United, so if they want to give them any advantage, I say to them today, thank you very much for doing that.”
Arteta boasts of the short turnaround to Villa and the rearrangement of fixtures which means they face Chelsea and United in the space of a few days.
“Many thanks to the Premier League… It’s not fair.”
— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) March 16, 2022
Jurgen Klopp was also a critic of that particular game. Amidst Liverpool’s ultimately failed quadruple bid last season, his side had to follow up Wednesday night’s Champions League semi-final visit of Villarreal with a Saturday afternoon trip to Newcastle.
Klopp on playing Villarreal Wed/Tue with Sat 12.30 at Newcastle between: “If you want to cause us problems, send us to 12.30 at Newcastle. The league and the broadcaster should try to help. Nobody from BT has contacted me yet. Common sense will tell you it’s okay to move it.”
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) April 14, 2022
Has the Sunday slot at 12pm been used before?
Yes. The only other time it was used this season was another of Arsenal’s games; their 3-0 away win against Brentford in mid-September.
Other than that, this is one of the more unusual Premier League kick-off times. The only other times it was used with any frequency was during the Covid-affected 2020-21 season when each game was given an individual TV slot.
Will it be used again?
With no more European football until February, there are no plans for any of the other confirmed televised matches to be played in the afternoon Sunday slot. The fixtures until the end of the festive period have all been confirmed and fans may be pleased to hear that none of them will be played on a Sunday at 12pm.
However, once the knockout matches in the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League start to be played, it can be used again.
(Photo: Getty Images)