Friday, 17 June 2011

The fixture conundrum

I wasn't going to blog on the fixture list as I didn't really see the point, but what the heck.
We know we have to play everyone home and away between August and May, and this just tells us in what order, when all is said and done.
Cheer up you miserable sod, I hear you cry... but I remember back only a few years when you wouldn't get all this hype about it.
As a kid I would open the Daily Telegraph sports pages (high brow my mum and dad you see, no tabloid rubbish in our house...) and there would be the opening day's games, and that was that.
Now we have massive pull-outs in every paper listing every team's games and hours of endless debate on Twitter, Facebook and Sky Sports News about the prospect of the opening day's fixtures in the Premier League and when the first Grand Slam Sunday will be - or whatever ridiculous name the marketing bods can dream up next.
Such is how times have changed.
When I was at the Echo and Citizen, after Cheltenham got into the League, the fixtures meant a lot of paperwork to fill in and a licence to print them needed to be awarded.
This meant a great long form, signed by the editor, accompanied by a letter from CTFC giving the paper permission to use their fixtures, and a hefty cheque allowing publication.
This was in the paper only - not on the paper's website which would involve an even heftier cheque - yes, all this just to print a list of matches.
A massive hassle and headache, so maybe now you understand why I don't get the fuss, as it has turned into a huge money-making scheme for the Football League DataCo company.
Imagine it. There are 92 clubs, so their local papers all have to pay the money, and the nationals will have to pay for EACH club's fixtures separately in  those pull-outs, as I suspect do the BBC for their website.
I think it is quite ridiculous that this happens, all for the right to print the fixtures in the papers.
Woe betide any website or forum where the fixtures are printed without a licence. They will come down like a ton of bricks and a breach of copyright action will be launched. They must make a fortune out of it.
The fans have a right to know this information without the papers having to pay for it, but DataCo have them over a barrel to be honest.
It isn't like this - not yet anyway- with the Conference or Southern League - or with the Premiership and lower league rugby fixture lists, or the county cricket. Only the Premier League and Football League operate this draconian scheme.
The clubs don't pay for putting it on their website of course, another drawback of the Premium TV deal, which has allowed them to try and control the way stories and club news is broken, making life harder for the newspapers and radio stations to break exclusives in the way they used to.
Ah, feel better after that rant...
Now, where was I? Yes. Fixtures.
Well, we have Gillingham away again on the opening day, for the second season running, so thanks for that.
Last season we drew 1-1 in what we thought was a decent result, Wes Thomas scoring on his debut before Bayo Akinfenwa equalised.
Neither player will be at Priestfield this time around, but we will meet  them both in August on successive Saturdays, Bayo with Northampton on the 20th then Wes with Crawley a week later at Whaddon.
Whether he is on the pitch is debatable though as Steve Evans currently seems hellbent on signing just about every forward who has ever played in League Two or the Conference.
The first home game is Swindon, which is a good opener - still remember Ben Gill scoring and getting sent off against them on the opening home game in 2008-9, having come on as sub in the 39th minute, scored after 62 then getting himself sent off after 69.
It's a shame Torquay away is on a Tuesday, and the same goes for Morecambe away, meaning no seaside piss ups, but I am looking forward to Plymouth away on the final day, as long as there is nothing on the game...
Apparently Mark Yates wants some Friday night games, not sure about that as it won't help attendances discernably, and I would hope we would play the likes of Macclesfield or Southend, who might not bring many fans anyway.
I guess Yatesy's thinking is that he would then be able to watch a match on the Saturday, and if we had a game the following Tuesday it would give us some extra recovery time, so I can see his reasoning from that point of view.
You cannot get away from the fact that a scan of the fixtures once again shows what a difficult and competitive league we are in for this season.
We are promised a new signing on Monday and pre-season training and the friendlies are drawing ever closer.
Yes 'Fixture Friday' or whatever Sky were calling it may be ridiculously over-hyped along with everything else in football these days, but OK, I will admit it - the excitement is definitely building towards August 6. Even if for us that means a pig of a trip to darkest Medway.
Bring it on...