Arsenal travel to face Chelsea at the very unusual time of 12pm GMT on Sunday 6th November.
Several Premier League games this season have already raised eyebrows among fans as their teams have had to play at times not known as a typical weekend schedule.
Here, The Athletic explains the reason for the timing of Sunday’s London derby.
What is the traditional start time of the Premier League?
Regular viewers of English football could probably recite the Premier League’s weekly schedule by heart. The weekend usually kicks off at 12:30 on Saturday and BT Sport has the rights to that slot. That is, of course, unless a game is selected for Friday Night Football which usually kicks off at 8pm in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Due to English football’s blackout laws, the following Saturday’s 3pm games cannot be broadcast in the UK. Since the blackout ends at 5:15 p.m., Saturday night football usually kicks off a quarter of an hour later.
Then, on Sunday, Sky Sports usually plays two Super Sunday games starting at 14:00 and 16:30. The weekend following the European midweek will see more games on Sunday which this season include Arsenal, Manchester United and West Ham. There will also sometimes be a Monday night football game which always starts at 8pm.
What is the reason for the different start times on television?
In this particular scenario, the game had to be moved to early Sunday due to Arsenal’s Europa League commitments. The game is being shown live on BT Sport, but the game cannot be played in its usual Saturday slot of 12.30pm as the Gunners are in action on Thursday night.
24 hours after Chelsea hosted Dinamo Zagreb, FC Zurich are in London to face Arsenal at the Emirates. Mikel Arteta’s side have qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League but will be looking to avoid a play-off against one of the relegated Champions League sides; matching PSV’s result guarantees them first place.
The turnaround between Thursday night’s clash and a potential 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 and shown on Sunday.
Have the start times been criticized before?
Yes, several managers of clubs competing in the Premier League and in Europe have expressed their frustration at certain kick-off times. Arteta was actually one of those who criticized the Saturday 12.30pm kick-off last season.
After being beaten by Liverpool on Wednesday night in March, Arsenal had to prepare for an early weekend trip to Aston Villa. They managed to win the game 1-0 to cement their place in the top four at the time, but before the game the Spaniard was not happy.
He said: “Thank you very much to the Premier League for doing that, and they did it again when we had to play 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 is fuming at the short turnaround for Villa and the rearrangement of fixtures which means they face Chelsea and United within days.
“Many thanks to the Premier League… It’s not fair.”
— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) March 16, 2022
Jurgen Klopp has also been a critic of that particular fixture. Amidst Liverpool’s ultimately failed quadruple attack last season, his side had to follow up Wednesday night’s Champions League semi-final visit to Villarreal with a Saturday lunchtime trip to Newcastle.
Klopp on Wednesday/Tuesday’s Villarreal game with Saturday’s 12.30 in Newcastle in between: “If you want to cause us problems, send us in at 12.30 in Newcastle. The league and the broadcaster should try to help. Nobody from BT has contacted me yet. Common sense would say the right thing to do is move it.”
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) April 14, 2022
Has the Sunday slot at 12 o’clock already been used?
That. The only other time it was used this season was another Arsenal game; their 3-0 win away to Brentford in mid-September.
In addition, this is one of the more unusual times for the Premier League to start. The only other time it was used with any frequency was during the Covid-affected 2020-21 season, when each game was given a separate TV slot.
Will it be used again?
With no more European football until February, there are no plans for any other confirmed televised matches to be played in the Sunday slot. All fixtures until the end of the festive period have been confirmed and fans may be pleased to hear that none of them will be played on Sunday at 12pm.
However, it can be used again once the Champions League, Europa League and European Conference League knockout matches have started.
(Photo: Getty Images)