There is just under a week left before the big Premier League kick off of the 2023/24 campaign, and as all football fans (of all divisions know) it also means it is time to try and get your heads around the latest rule changes, and rule tweaks, that the International Football Association Board (IFAB) have decided to introduce to ‘improve’ the game we all love.
They are not called the Thunderbirds in this household for nothing, and their grand ideas usually result in the expected achievement of ‘absolutely nothing’ being added to the game. In saying that, I do not acknowledge the unnecessary confusion and further annoyance they create as being a benefit – VAR anyone? A contra physics handball rule? Do I even need to mention offside?
At least they wobble around being all self important like their namesakes, which they seem happy with, so good for them eh!
But as the Championship and the rest of the English pyramid has now begun for the year, we are now seeing their latest inventions take a grip and in the name of giving ‘fans more value for their money’, it actually seems that real fans are again inconvenienced as football plays to the broadcasters, extra sponsorship and advertising opportunities.
Over the weekend, games lasted longer than ever with referee’s now instructed to add on the exact seconds for ‘ball out of play’ situations. The theory is not wrong (God knows ticket prices these days are extortionate and paying fans should absolutely maximise value for money in their entertainment/pathological love of their team), but the application most certainly is not.
It will not effect subscribers sat on their sofas, but did the Thunderbirds consider attending fans and local public transport networks? Particularly for daft evening kick offs that already provide transportation issues of their own, or away day travellers who already go over an above, just to suit a broadcaster? A lot of fans already leave ahead of the final whistle to ensure they can travel home even when more local- so whilst the idea is sound, why has this change been enforced prior to clubs laying on appropriate transport? Working with local public transport companies and so on and so forth?
Some clubs will have undoubtedly foreseen the extra complications for fans, other clubs, maybe not as much.
The first English Football programme of 2023/24 saw all 35 matches feature, at minimum, eight minutes of additional time, and several of the 3pm kick offs (remember them in the Premier League) did not finish until gone 5pm.
Even BBC presenter Mark Chapman, on his BBC Radio 5 Live ‘Around the Grounds’ show cracked.
“Sports Report has always started at 17:00 for 75 years… I have a sense that this season it will be starting at about a quarter past.”
At Sixfields, Northampton faced fellow newly promoted side Stevenage, and fans saw the officials add a massive 22 minutes and 36 seconds to the regulation time. The shortest match was Millwall’s trip to the Riverside to face Middlesbrough – that was only eight minutes and 45 seconds longer.
Fans also saw this rule change in action at the Community Shield, where Arsenal equalised in the 101st minute to take the game to penalties against Manchester City.
Fans who do not rely on public transport and use their car, might want to book an extra hour in the month ahead.
Image from: unsplash.com