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Kicking off 22/02/2007

Posted by Ian Grant in Thoughts about things.

Thing is, it’s essentially quite simple. If a television company isn’t able to find a suitable time for a fixture within its cramped schedule, that’s not so hard to understand. Face it, Plymouth Argyle v Watford is not that particular weekend’s prime draw…and we ought (both) to be proud of that fact, since endless repeats of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United might draw armchair punters but capture nothing of the competition’s supposedly glorious spirit. The BBC’s pride at providing coverage of all four quarter-finals doesn’t really hide the stark reality: that this is a game they’d happily forget about, and blamelessly so. They have other priorities…bigger fish to fry, larger egos to massage.

Given that, how on earth have we reached a position where a broadcaster’s disinterests can entirely override the needs of those who actually care about the event? Why am I not able to go to a massively important game involving my team because the BBC doesn’t really want to cover it and therefore can’t find an appropriate time? That is an absurdity…and it is the kind of absurdity that results from a decision-making process in which nobody represents supporters’ interests. According to Roger Mosey, Director of BBC Sport, “we don’t want to put travelling fans to any inconvenience if we can possibly avoid it.” By which logic, either travelling fans haven’t been put to any inconvenience by being asked to start a two hundred and fifty mile journey at half eight on a Sunday night, or Plymouth Argyle v Watford could not possibly have happened at any other time apart from six o’clock on said Sunday night. Um, yeah. Go figure.

As ever, we’re the last to know, long after anything can be done about it. It’s not our game, after all; it’s not for us to decide. We’re just supposed to turn up with comedy vegetables on cue. You can feel the frustration in Graham Simpson’s quoted views, mainly because it’s your own frustration; it’s reassuring and pleasing to see the club taking such a clear stance, and free coach travel will probably help some people to get to the game. But it’s not the heart of the matter. You need to harness that frustration while it’s fresh, or nothing ever changes. Perhaps nothing ever changes anyway…but you don’t find out without trying.

Tell the FA what you think for a start. Tell the BBC too. And if you’ve got any ideas for going further, let’s have ’em.


1. Nigel Everett - 22/02/2007

What will the veg be for Plymouth – sour grapes (I know they’re a fruit but…..!)?

2. Graeme Bowd - 23/02/2007

Oh for goodness sake! Isn’t everyone being a bit precious about this? Sure, a 6pm kick-off in Plymouth is not ideal for travelling fans. But the same transport problems apply to every evening game outside the M25. Did we complain about the trip to Old Trafford in midweek? Couldn’t that game have been scheduled for 3pm on a Saturday? Of course not. It’s all part of being a travelling football supporter and we should stop wingeing — especially now that the club is offering free transport for all.
The game has been schduled for 6pm because this is the time when it can expect the biggest TV audience on a very busy weekend of sport. It’s nonsense to say that the BBC doesn’t want to cover it live. It could choose not to do so. The fact that this tie is not as attractive as the other three is not the BBC’s fault. Even so It will probably be seen by four million viewers. Many of them will be Watford fans who can’t travel and can’t afford Sky — so this represents a rare chance to see their team live on TV. Are their needs less important than the 1,500 or so Horns who will go to the game? I don’t think so.
Like so many things in life, there is a compromise here. We should be pleased our side is in the 6th round — and confident that we will get a more convenient kick-off time in the semi finals.

3. Ian Grant - 23/02/2007

Compromise, Graeme…? Whatever the reasons behind the decision, the BBC has shoved me into the very group that you describe: those who can’t travel to the game. That particular compromise seems fairly one-sided to me.

I’m delighted that my team is in the sixth round. It’s hardly surprising, however, if the shine is somewhat tarnished by not being able to be there. Is that precious? Or just a natural reaction?

4. Matt Rowson - 23/02/2007

It’s great that the club are offering free coaches Graeme, but the beef was never really with them anyway; they’re as pissed off as most of us are.

The game has very definitely NOT been scheduled for 6pm to maximise audience… it’s been put there as the lowest priority of the BBC’s weekend. As Ian suggests, there’s no problem with it being the lowest priority, but if the consequence is that it’s stuck in a corner making it very hard for folk to travel to it then something’s wrong.

The needs of folk who can’t travel aren’t irrelevant, but they very much are secondary to the folk who want to see the game live. Unless you’re suggesting that Television rather than being in the stadium has become the choice way of watching football…? In which case we’ll have to agree to disagree.

You’re absolutely right that being in the 6th round is something to celebrate. I’d just like to celebrate it in the ground as the occasion that it is – a cup quarter final, NOT a league game that happens to be midweek (which happens) or a cup replay (where you know the deal), rather than in an away end that will probably be sparse and almost certainly reduced in size by the BBC’s decision.

5. Paul Wiggins - 23/02/2007

I was going to take my 14 year old son to the game but cant as I kind of think that being at school the next day is important. So we’re not going. Having followed Watford since 1967 I can remember 6 previous FA CUP Quarter finals – Liverpool, Birmingham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Wimbledon, Burnley three of which when we were temporarily a leading force in the land.I can remember being at them all. You see the FA cup is meant to be a magic event and by the time the next one comes round maybe 2013+ my son will be 20 and the magic will probably have disappeared – big clubs dominationg even more and probably not entering till round 5, no replays, games on at stupid times. Therefore stuff the tele – I am not an Arsenal fan I see my team live.

6. Billyo - 23/02/2007

Agree with Matt, and I have written to the FA and BBC with similar sentiments.

When the fixture list comes out at the start of the season there are games which, as public transport using (i.e. non-driving) supporter you just write off as not possible to go.

But you expect, that if, in the unlikely position your team make the FAC 6th Round (for that is what it used to be called) you’ll be able to go because it’s at the weekend.

I live in the West Country and can’t make it back on the train.

7. Colin Wiggins - 23/02/2007

Get real bruv! The BBC caters for true football supporters and if you choose to follow Watford you disqualify yourself from consideration. True fans are clinically obese, cannot get out through their front doors, guzzle tasteless over-marketed lager and wear XXXL Chelsea replica shirts that stretch grotequely over their sweaty guts. Tom can do some improving reading during the time you would have spent taking him to Plymouth and back.
And by the way, what does Janet want for her birthday? See you tomorrow, row QQ.

8. Esp - 24/02/2007

What a fair and balanced thread Mr Grant has created. I fear that Matt’s cynical view about “…..suggesting that Television rather than being in the stadium has become the choice way of watching football…?” I fear is accurate although Matt wasn’t making that point; quite the opposite
It is an unpalatable truth that most “supporters” and I use that word in the broadest possible terms WILL be watching the quarter finals on BBC television.
My guess is that there will be no more than 750 travelling ‘Orns so Cantabrica needn’t bother filling up the tanks of 8 of the coaches that Graham has booked, we won’t be needing them
Surely the Directors and Corporates will be flying from London as they won’t want to get a bloody 1960’s coach from Tiverton for the last half hour of the journey and I will envoke my right to travel to Plymouth to support the ‘Orns whilst totally sympathising with Messrs Raggett, Lesley, Grant and other self employed people who really can’t afford the time or inclination for a 500 mile round trip before a Monday morning
Why even Frances Lynn of all people may not go; now try telling that to Harry, Graeme and the WST – THEY WON’T BELIEVE YOU


9. DC United - 24/02/2007

Completely agree with Graeme. This is utter nonsense. I can’t think of the last time a Watford game had such a large potential audience and all we’re hearing is people moaning they won’t be able to see it.

This is in the same vain as the ‘we play too many games these days’ rubbish. I remember in the 80’s as a schoolboy going to FA Cup midweek games at Walsall, Man City and Liverpool. There was no bleating then and the games weren’t live on telly either.

My son wants to go to the game and I’ll take him. If we can be on the road away from Plymouth by 8-30pm he can sleep in the car and we’ll be back sometime after Midnight. If he’s a bit tired the next day at school so what? And if he didn’t want to go he’d watch it on Telly. No big deal.

He’s 10 and if he can deal with it I’m sure those older and uglier can handle it and be at work the following day.

10. Simon in Oz - 25/02/2007

Stop whingeing, you Poms!
My last away game was a 24,000 mile round trip from Sydney to Gresty Road in Oct 05 – to see a 0:0 thriller! This was part of a holiday to the ‘Old Country’ so perhaps that doesn’t count. I did go to Wemberley ’99 on a hastily arranged 10 day trip in ’99 though.
So I was wondering if, with Wembley still waiting for its paint to dry, the 2007 FA Cup final (WFC 3: Chelsea 0) could,to suit me, be transferred from Cardiff to Sydney Olympic Stadium. The midnight GST kick-off time should mean that it will not obstruct any of the BBC’s regular programming and it means I can get the local bus to the stadium and be back home for a decent BBQ dinner.
Even from here this decision STINKS! Sadly, it’s the way of the World nowadays. I do feel sorry for you guys driving home in the small hours – just as I felt sorry for myself at 5am this morning, when I saw us ship 2 goals in 2 minutes against Everton live on Aussie TV. It’s no way to start a Sunday!
Cheer for me at Plymouth!

11. mb - 25/02/2007

Lets just make sure everyone is really up for this one, the BBC is desperate for an Facup shock , they have tried to help Plymouth By making things more difficult for us, but surely we dont care too much when its played as long as we progress to the Semis.
However I am sure the FA is desperate for a final that will be 2 from Man U , Arsenal or Chelsea at Wembley.

12. JBE - 26/02/2007

There are a couple of points you’ve missed. First, it’s ridiculous to show all the quarters live. There’s too much football on telly as it is, and in the scheme of things it makes much more sense to have one game live and the rest at the proper time with highlights (a far moe satisfying TV football experience anyway). Secondly, the only time the Argyle-Watford game could have been screened without causing major headaches for travelling fans was the Sky slot. Saturday and Sunday lunchtime made it impossible for Watford fans to get down to Plymouth in time for kick-off unless they left on Friday. So the choice is, telly or not? And given that you do far better out of TV money than we do, it’s a bit rich to come all outraged over it when you happen to be inconvenienced by their scheduling.

13. Matt Rowson - 26/02/2007

Agree about showing all the quarters, JBE, and your suggestion about highlights. Don’t quite agree that the Sky slot was the only one… Saturday evening would have been OK with the potential for a lie-in the next day, even lunchtime slots would have been fine, nobody minds an early start.

And your final point is a bit of a nonsense. We got promoted to the Prem, therefore we’re not allowed to be pissed off? Sorry, don’t buy that. The general point is a valid one – you can’t have your cake (TV money) and eat it (whine about scheduling). But here we’re talking about a cup quarter final, not a bog standard event for either club. It’s being scheduled to accommodate not interest, but the lack of it on the part of the viewing public… at the cost of many of those who ARE interested being able to enjoy it. And that’s wrong.

14. JBE - 26/02/2007

No train on Saturday or Sunday morning from Watford gets you to Plymouth in time for a lunchtime kick-off – and that’s without factoring in engineering works. OK you could drive. TBH I don’t really buy the BBC’s Six Nations excuse for not using the Saturday lunchtime slot – and if you want someone to blame for not getting Sunday lunchtime (which would have stuffed me personally, not that that has any bearing on the issue), Chelsea fan are a cheap and convenient target.

I don’t usually defend BBC sports coverage, but Sunday teatime is a great slot for TV football – early enough for family viewing, not much else on. It’s where it is because of a) the rugby b) the police – not because the BBC especially wanted to shaft the fans. And special pleading on the grounds of unfamiliarity with Cup quarter finals doesn’t detract from the force of the point that football fans are happy to take TV money when it suits them. Argyle fans travel further than any other in the UK (at least domestically) including insane things like Norwich for a 12.30 kick-off in the name of telly. Its the way it is.

15. Matt Rowson - 26/02/2007

I don’t think the BBC wanted to shaft anyone… considerations of travelling supporters just weren’t very high on the list of priorities either way.

I suppose that 6pm on a Sunday evening isn’t unreasonable when you put it like that. But how many folk who have neither Argyle nor Watford associations will be tuning in? Mum, Dad and 2.3 children, supporters of whichever club around the country will be planning their evenings around it no doubt.

Your last point is really very weak. “Football fans” take the money do they? Brilliant. Give me £50 and I promise not to moan any more.

As for the “poor Argyle fans have to travel further than any other” line which has been trotted out as if it’s a winning argument by so many of your fellow greens… sorry, that doesn’t carry any weight either. This isn’t any normal game, and I don’t doubt that you would be just as pissed off, and as vocal, were the roles reversed and the game at Vicarage Road at the same time, albeit it’s a more typical trip distancewise. This should be a special occasion; instead it’s been screwed around for a TV audience, a large proportion of whom would either much rather be at the game, or be just as happy watching “Only Fools and Horses” on the other channel.

16. JBE - 26/02/2007

Of course football fans take the money. They want – many of them demand – the success the TV revenue brings.

And no, you’re wrong. If the tie was at Vicarage Road we wouldn’t be whinging about the scheduling – certainly not to the inordinate lengths the Hornets have been. We’d be getting ready to fill your ground.

I’m genuinely sorry your time in the Prem hasn’t been any more fruitful than last time. I like WFC’s family atmosphere, and I enjoyed your football last season. And I’ll gladly buy you a pint at the replay.

17. mb - 26/02/2007

Do you think it will be moved to bbc2 so Songs of Praise and Antiques Roadshow viewers dont get upset.?

18. Matt Rowson - 27/02/2007

We’ll have to agree to disagree on that point JBE. Speaking as a football fan, I’d opt not to take the money and to have the game at 3pm on the Saturday. Just as a big part of me is quite looking forward to playing proper football against proper teams with proper supporters next season and paying only a small fortune (rather than a large one) for away tickets, even on the day of the game. I suspect the club might disagree though.

As for that pint, I might take you up on that, should the opportunity arise. I will equally gladly buy you a pint before the Home Park game if you let me know where you’ll be ?

19. Esp - 28/02/2007

Matt wrote:
“This should be a special occasion; instead it’s been screwed around for a TV audience, a large proportion of whom would either much rather be at the game, or be just as happy watching “Only Fools and Horses” on the other channel”
That just isn’t correct Matt, a large proportion of the TV audience would NOT rather be at the game. Because the scheduling has put paid to that. As the other correspondent correctly summised the BBC have prioritised the bigger ratings matches AND their contractural obligation to the Six Nations.
I wanted to go to the game but in the end decided I was not going to stump up for a hotel in Plymouth before getting an early train into work for Monday morning. The coach wasn’t an option as I cannot sleep on the bloody things
My plan would have worked out of course but the extra costs for me and my son in the end were prohibitive
I still don’t think more than 900 or so will make the trip (Do we know how ticket sales are going?) but I would be glad to be proved wrong and I applaud everyone on BHaPPY who has decided to go cos the FA Cup, and this round in particular, has a great atmosphere and special magic
I will be hosting a “paid for” junket at Twickenham on Sunday before 6pm but will be home in time for MoTD2 or FA Cup Special whatever the BBC are calling their highlights programme

20. Simon in Oz - 28/02/2007

George Reilly

21. JBE - 01/03/2007

Thanks for the offer, Matt. As I’ll be working until about 2.00 on the Sunday and then travelling from North Cornwall with my nine-year-old, I’m unlikely to make it to the pub. But if you fancy standing outside a tea van (if its not too cold) for a pre-match chat I’d definitely be up for that. Having travelled all that way, though, dont let me deprive you of much-needed beer!

22. Andy in NZ - 13/03/2007

just thought I should say from the other side of the world how great it was to be able to watch the match live at the civilised hour of 7am on a monday morning, rather than any of the earlier timeslots! Made for a great start to the working week, albeit that I didn’t get to work til nearly 10am. There’s always a silver lining……

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