It is all becoming very real for Seagulls supporters with the initial fixture release this week and life in the Premier League 8 weeks away.
There’s an absolute whopper to start with Manchester City at home. I won’t go into each and every game as everyone will have their own favourite or special take on them. For many the highlight of Brighton and Hove Albion’s debut season in the Premier League will be visiting some special grounds.
There are four new venues for the club. Spurs will be at Wembley, West Ham are now resident at the London Stadium, and Albion has never played at either Manchester City’s Etihad or Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
Plans are already underway and negotiations are being undertaken across the dinner tables of Sussex about some of the trips coming up across the next 10 months, and quite rightly so. However, at the bottom of every fixture list is the dreaded ‘These dates and times are subject to change.’
With five live TV games planned for the opening weekend that first match at the Amex will inevitably move but of course a host of others will too. As well as the usual TV slots across the weekend The Premier League games were spread right across the week at the end of last season. Several newspapers reported that audiences have dipped. Is it because armchair fans have had enough ? To be honest my concern is more for those devoted fans who have, and will continue to travel around the country. The Premier League clubs has now discussed the idea of staging Saturday night games kicking off at 7.45pm.
The league has pledged to broadcast at least 190 games per season when they negotiate television rights for the 2019-20 season onwards. Some fans groups backed by the Football Supporters' Federation have been pressing the case for fans to be given more consideration when fixtures are being scheduled.
They believe anti-social kick-off times, midweek journeys the length of the country when no public transport is available and what they believe to be the short notice of rearrangements for TV purposes are making it increasingly difficult for fans to get to games.
Some might say a Saturday night out in Manchester or a weekend away in London is an appetizing prospect for supporters but at what cost in their pocket? Does everyone have the resources to dispense with affordable official club buses?
In countries such as Spain La Ligaseems to be played at all sorts of times and clubs right across Europe are becoming more aware of the potential audience in countries such as China but I do personally have concerns for the core of fans in this country. These issues I’m sure will not be of a major concern to Albion fans this season but if the club can survive and establish themselves in the top-flight it may become a growing issue in the pub, during dinner or with mates at work as plans are hatched for trips to Old Trafford, Anfield or St James’ Park. That trip to the North East this season is in between Christmas and New year. That should provide some lively discussion with family members over the next few months !