Is playing Champions League games on weekends a feasible solution?
For years, UEFA Champions League matches have been midweek games, ensuring they don’t interfere with the team’s league campaigns. In fact, that has been the case since 1968. Weekends have always been reserved for league games.
But that could be all set to change in the near future. UEFA is now looking to maximise interest in Europe’s most prestigious competition by moving matches to the weekend.
Why is UEFA doing this?
The primary reason for moving Champions League matches to the weekend is to maximise television viewership. Games on weekends will always get more viewers – both on TV and at the stadium. Empty seats are always visible during midweek games, especially in the group stages.
Another factor they have considered is the audience in the Far East. Most of the Asian population stay up after midnight to watch Champions League games.
In fact, all countries east of India’s time zone watch UCL games after midnight (after 1 AM when Daylight Savings Time is in effect). Audiences in East Asia such as Malaysia, China, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia have a huge television audience but Champions League matches kick off in the wee hours of the morning.
UEFA is clearly trying to ensure that the Champions League remains the most elite competition on the continent under the threat of the English Premier League’s financial riches. The new television deal for the Premier League could see teams give less importance to European competition to ensure they perform well in the Premier League.
When will this happen?
The proposed changes will not take place anytime soon. The current television and broadcast contracts for midweek Champions League games run till 2021.
“We are in constant dialogue with all stakeholders and any decisions will be taken in agreement with them,” a spokesman from UEFA explained.
“It is far too early to speculate about changes to the formats of our club competitions.”
Is this a feasible solution?
Moving Champions League matches to the weekend would severely affect domestic league schedules. Not only would league matches have to be moved to midweek but also potential cup ties.
It would also interfere with the league’s broadcast schedule and UEFA have strict rules regarding teams playing domestic matches at the same time as Champions League matches. For example, Arsenal had to play an FA Cup replay in March and did not have a day available apart from a Champions League night and meetings took place between the FA and UEFA to allow the match to be played that night.
While teams who are in the Champions League would not be affected by this move from a financial sense, the rest of the teams in the league will not be too happy to play more games in the middle of the week. Ticket sales are always higher on weekends and moving a league match to Tuesday or Wednesday night would see a drop in attendance and ticket revenue.
According to The Times, a source said: “It is unthinkable that Champions League matches would be played on weekends.
“Those dates are allocated to domestic competitions. We hope that the good sense of our own FA, UEFA and FIFA would prevail in preventing this.”