Arsenal travel to face Chelsea on Sunday, November 6 at the very unusual time of 12:00 GMT.
Several Premier League fixtures this season have already raised eyebrows among supporters as their teams have been forced to play at times as unfamiliar as a typical weekend schedule.
Here, The Athletic explains the reason for Sunday’s London derby.
What are the traditional Premier League kick-off times?
Regular fans of English football will probably be able to recite the weekly Premier League schedule by heart. The weekend usually kicks off at 12.30pm on a Saturday with BT Sport holding the rights to that exclusive slot. That is, of course, unless a game is picked for Friday Night Football which kicks off at 8pm in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Due to England’s football blackout laws, the 3pm matches that follow on Saturday cannot be broadcast in the UK. As it blacks out at 5.15pm, a Saturday Night Football game will usually start a quarter of an hour later.
Then, on Sundays, Sky Sports usually have two Super Sunday games starting at 14:00 and 16:30. There will be more games on Sunday in the weekends leading up to the European week, with, this season, Arsenal, Manchester United and West Ham taking part. There will also be an occasional Monday Night Football game which always starts at 8pm.
What is the reason for different TV start times?
In this particular scenario, the game had to be moved to Sunday due to Arsenal’s Europa League commitments. The game is shown live on BT Sport but the game will not be played in its usual 12.30 Saturday slot as the Gunners are in action on Thursday night.
24 hours after Chelsea host Dinamo Zagreb, FC Zurich are in London to face Arsenal at the Emirates. Mikel Arteta’s side 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; PSV’s consistency of results will guarantee them the top spot.
The turnaround between Thursday night’s clash and a potential Saturday afternoon game is too short and it is not reasonable 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 to play, and show up on Sunday instead.
Have the early times been criticized before?
Yes, many managers of clubs competing in the Premier League and in Europe expressed their dismay at some early stage. Arteta was actually one of those who criticized the 12.30pm Saturday kick-off last season.
After being beaten by Liverpool on a Wednesday evening in March, Arsenal had to prepare for the opening weekend trip to Aston Villa. They managed to win the match 1-0 to cement their place in the top four at the time but, before the game, the Spaniard was not happy.
He said: “A big thank you 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 an advantage, I say to them today, a big thank you to challenge accepted. doing this.”
Arteta is on Villa’s short rotation, and fitful re-adjustments mean they face Chelsea and United in the space of a few days.
“Many thanks to the Premier League… It’s not fair.”
— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) 16 March 2022
Jurgen Klopp is also a critic of that particular slot. In the midst of Liverpool’s quadruple relegation last season which ultimately failed, his side had to follow up Wednesday evening’s Champions League semi-final visit to Villarreal with a Saturday afternoon trip to Newcastle.
Klopp on playing Villarreal Wed/Tues with Sat 12.30 in Newcastle between: “If you want to cause us problems, send us to 12.30 in Newcastle. The league and the broadcasters should try to help. Someone from BT is still with me common sense would say. you’re right to change it.”
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) April 14, 2022
Has the Sunday 12pm slot already been taken?
Yes. The next time it was used this season was in another Arsenal game; Their 3-0 away win against Brentford in mid-September.
In addition, it is one of those rare Premier League kick-off times. The only other times it has been used with any frequency was in the 2020-21 season due to Covid-19 where each game was given an individual TV slot.
Will it be used again?
With no more European football until February, there are no plans for any of the other confirmed televised games to be played in the Sunday lunchtime slot. The games until the end of the festive period have all been confirmed and supporters may be pleased to hear that none of them will be played at 12pm on Sunday.
However, it may be used again once clinical matches have started in the Champions League, Europa League and European Conference League.
(Photo: Getty Images)