DERRY CITY chief executive Sean Barrett has raised concerns about the decision to broadcast Manchester United’s Premiership clash with Aston Villa on Sky Sports this Friday night, claiming it will have a detrimental effect on League of Ireland attendances.
The ‘Candy Stripes’ host league champions Dundalk at Brandywell Stadium on the same night and Mr Barrett is fearful the televised Premiership match from Villa Park, scheduled for 7.45 p.m., will have a huge impact on already falling attendances.
In fact the club are so concerned that they have already made requests to the FAI to bring the kick-off time forward to avoid a clash.
The Villa v Man United match has been brought forward to Friday night due to a planned English Defence League march in Birmingham city centre 24 hours later, so it’s an isolated case this season.
However next season Sky Sports have agreed to televise 10 Premier League matches on a Friday night which will no doubt affect League of Ireland attendances.
So it’s an early taste of Friday night Premiership football ahead of the broadcasting deal which will come into affect between 2016 and 2019.
And Mr Barrett believes the FAI must be pro-active and make a decision about when the Airtricity League should stage its matches from 2016 onwards.
“We spoke to the FAI to see if we could have the game brought forward,” said Mr Barrett.
“At this stage they were very reluctant but I’m assuming other clubs are feeling the same and you never know , we might have some success but we’ll see as the week goes on.
It’s something the league are going to have a serious look at for next season because Manchester United, Arsenal and teams like that playing on a Friday night, are going to affect the crowds - there’s no doubt about that.Sean Barrett
“It’s obviously going to have an affect on attendances,” he claimed. “We anticipated this earlier in the season and spoke to the FAI about it.
“The FAI have assured us that it won’t be a concern this year (Friday night Premiership matches on Sky Sports) because they were bringing it in over a period of time.
“Obviously it’s going to affect the crowds for all home teams in the League of Ireland this Friday night, however.
“It’s something the league are going to have a serious look at for next season because Manchester United, Arsenal and teams like that playing on a Friday night, are going to affect the crowds - there’s no doubt about that.”
The Derry City chief executive doesn’t believe there is a ready-made alternative for League of Ireland clubs to avoid a clash with televised games in England given the weekly TV schedule is already jam-packed with live matches.
“We’re looking at different alternatives,” he said. “But what are the alternatives - Saturday at 5 p.m? But there’s a game on then. Is it Sunday? - there’s two games on then and there’s one on Monday. And then on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays there’s Champions League games. So it’s just going to be very difficult to get a slot for League of Ireland games.
“I don’t know what the standard of Friday night games are going to be but unfortunately their starting off with a big one. It’s a serious concern for the club because we’re trying to get as much revenue in as we can. Premiership football is a big attraction to young people especially and it will affect the crowd.”
With Derry City enjoying something of a revival of fortunes in recent weeks following its first back to back victories since last August, Mr Barrett has urged City fans to opt for live football rather than becoming armchair supporters of the English Premiership.
“I can just call on our fans to come out and support the club. There’s nothing better than live football.
“We played brilliant attacking football on Friday night against Galway. So come out and watch your local team. You can always Sky Plus or record the United match and watch it later on.
“We would like to think that a game against the champions, Dundalk, would attract a decent turnout and we need as much support as we can get certainly on the back of a couple of decent results.”
And Derry boss Peter Hutton has also called on the Brandywell Faithful to come and give much needed encouragement to the players.
“Both teams like to play good football so hopefully the local supporters will come out and watch it rather than sitting in the house watching the match. We really need the support and anytime we’ve had a good boisterous support it’s galvanised the players and we need thta again against the champions.”