29 September ~ Fans of clubs in the Premier League and Championship are fairly used to clubs and footballing authorities changing kick off-times at the behest of a television network. The Hull City supporters looking forward to visiting Brighton & Hove Albion's new stadium on October 15, however, have had their plans greatly inconvenienced or, at worst, entirely scuppered by a source completely unrelated to football. The game was scheduled as a standard three o'clock kick-off for a long enough period for Hull City to allow Tigers fans to start applying for tickets via the club's online procedure. A week or so later, Brighton announced very suddenly – and with minimal fanfare – that they were changing the kick off to 5.30pm the same day.
This was not, as is the tiresome norm, for TV coverage, but because the local university is holding its open day that afternoon and so its car park – which doubles up as a matchday car park – was needed for visitors. This reason is, when looked at neutrally, comical, frivolous and distinctly small-time. One assumes that universities do not organise major events such as open days a meagre month in advance and therefore Brighton must have known for some time, as a club, that they were likely to need to switch the kick-off time once the fixture list had made it clear they had a home game that weekend.
That they've chosen to do it so comparatively late in the day shows a staggering disregard for travelling supporters. Many have applied for tickets, and only through the blessing of a deadline prior to allocation has actual money for match tickets not yet changed hands. But, far worse, many Tigers fans have already shelled out for train travel. And Hull to Falmer, and back, is not cheap.
Train companies do not offer refunds on advance ticket purchases of this nature and there would be no point in asking for train tickets to be scheduled for a different time as, thanks to the game now due to end at somewhere pushing the 7.30pm mark, it is impossible for Tigers fans to get back to Hull by train afterwards. Therefore, attendance now has to be either via road, making the day longer, dearer and far more tiring, or with the inclusion of an overnight stay, something that fans with families to go home to will not be able to do.
"This switch has the least impact on all concerned," said Ken Brown, the managing director of Brighton & Hove Albion, who presumably had neglected to remember that people from Hull might actually wish to see a match involving Hull City. Brighton, replying to complaints from Tigers supporters, do not accept that they should be held liable for refunds of train tickets booked by fans when the game was still promoted as a 3pm kick-off. This stand-off involving extremely put-out supporters of one club versus officials of another does not seem set to end for some time. And at least when telly cocks up your plans you have the consolation of still being able to watch the game. Matthew Rudd