'No football supporter really wants a 12pm kick-off' - is it time for Derbies at high noon to stop?

PUBLISHED: 09:45 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:16 17 January 2019

Moritz Leitner preserved Norwich's unbeaten run in the East Anglian derby earlier this season at Portman Road Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Moritz Leitner preserved Norwich's unbeaten run in the East Anglian derby earlier this season at Portman Road Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

When it comes to the East Anglian Derby, there is just one thing harder to recall than an Ipswich Town win - a Saturday 3pm kick-off.

Alex Mathie celebrates scoring against Norwich City on the last time the game kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday. Picture: Archant LibraryAlex Mathie celebrates scoring against Norwich City on the last time the game kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday. Picture: Archant Library

For well over a decade, the football match affectionately known as the Old Farm has been held at or around 12pm on a Sunday, with the odd exception.

In fact, you have to go back more than 20 years for the last time the game was played at football’s most traditional kick-off time - a 5-0 victory for the Tractor Boys on February 21, 1998.

Now, as a city pub rues being block in its bid to open early ahead of the game, the issue of whether the irregular kick-off times are necessary has again reared its head.

The fixture-altering move comes each time at the instruction of Norfolk’s safety advisory group - a panel made up of representatives from the county council, emergency services and Norwich City Football Club, with part of the motivation being to limit the amount of times fans can access alcohol ahead of kick-off.

However, Robin Sainty, chairman of supporters’ group the Canaries Trust, has argued it does not take fans into account.

He said: “I’m a traditional sort, so were it up to me the matches would kick-off at 3 o’clock on a Saturday, but it would take a different attitude from the authorities for this to happen.

“If the Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield derbies can all be played at ordinary times, why not ours which arguably is far less emotional affairs than theirs?”

Mr Sainty said he had been in negotiation to convince the SAG to take on a fan representative, but that this had not been welcomed.

The Fat Cat and Canary has been told it can not open early on Derby Day. Pictured, bar manager Justin Mckee and landlord Christian Hodgkinson. Picture : ANTONY KELLYThe Fat Cat and Canary has been told it can not open early on Derby Day. Pictured, bar manager Justin Mckee and landlord Christian Hodgkinson. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

He added: “No football supporter really wants a 12pm kick-off, as they cause logistical difficulties. It is a pain for people travelling 40-odd miles to a game.

“If the argument is that it is to stop people drinking lots before the game, all pubs should be stopped from opening earlier, not just some. You can’t have it both ways.

“And at the end of the day, the minority of fans that do cause trouble will find their way to the ground whatever time the game is.”

Christian Hodgkinson, landlord of the Fat Cat and Canary, on Thorpe Road, this week told how his pub had been prevented from opening two hours before kick-off, as its licence presently only allows it to serve alcohol from 12pm.

However, pubs already licenced for earlier opening on a Sunday remain unaffected and in August, The Station Hotel in Ipswich opened to City fans at 6am ahead of the reverse fixture at Portman Road.

Mr Hodgkinson said; “We do feel a little singled out, although we understand the police’s point of view.

“While our location does not help us, we are specialist pub serving real ale and don’t tend to attract lager louts or rowdy people.”

However, Michelle Bartram, Norfolk Police’s licensing officer said: “The kick-off time for this match is intentionally planned for midday in order to limit the opportunity to consume alcohol priority to the game to reduce the risk of disorder.

“This would be undermined if premises are granted licences to permit earlier opening.”

She added that the majority of football-related arrests in the county occur on Derby Days, explaining the measure.

In a poll voted in by more than 200 people, almost 80pc of fans said they would favour a 3pm kick-off time.

And while this may not be favoured by authorities, many other local ties have been allowed to stray away from 12pm starts.

For example, while none of the last five Manchester derbies have kicked off at 3pm, none have started at 12pm either. The same can be said about the North London derby between Arsenal and Spurs, and the ties between Liverpool and Everton on Merseyside.

Di Cunningham, of Proud Canaries, added: “I don’t actually agree with the notion that all football games should be at 3pm, because there are lots of people who work in retail for example that would miss out.

“However, 12pm kick-offs really mess up your day and it is nice to be able to meet up with people before the game, which is much harder that time of day.”

The last 10 East Anglian derbies

Sunday, September 2, 2018: 12pm

Sunday February 18, 2018: 12pm

Sunday, October 22, 2017, 12pm

Sunday February 26, 2017: 12pm

Sunday, August 21, 2016: 12pm

Saturday, May 16, 2015: 12.15pm

Saturday, May 9, 2015: 12.15pm

Sunday, March 1, 2015: 2.05pm

Saturday, August 23, 2014: 12.15pm

Thursday, April 21, 2011: 7.45pm

Other derbies

Manchester derby (City vs United)

Sunday, November 11, 2018: 4.30pm

Saturday, April 7, 2018: 5.30pm

Sunday, December 10, 2017: 4.30pm

Thursday, April 27, 2017: 8pm

Wednesday, October 26, 2016: 8pm

Merseyside derby (Liverpool vs Everton)

Sunday, December 2, 2018: 4.15pm

Saturday, April 7, 2018: 12.30pm

Friday, January 5, 2018: 7.55pm

Sunday, December 10, 2017: 2.15pm

Saturday, April 1, 2017: 12.30pm

North London derby (Arsenal vs Spurs)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018: 7.45pm

Sunday, December 2, 2018: 2.05pm

Saturday, February 10, 2018: 12.30pm

Saturday, November 18, 2017: 12.30pm

Sunday, April 30, 2017: 4.30pm

Sheffield derby (United vs Wednesday)

Friday, November 9, 2018: 7.45pm

Friday, January 12, 2018: 7.45pm

Sunday, September 24, 2017: 1.15pm

Sunday, February 26, 2012: 1pm

Sunday, October 16, 2011: 12pm

Welsh derby (Cardiff vs Swansea)

Saturday, February 8, 2014: 5.30pm

Sunday, November 3, 2013: 4pm

Sunday, February 6, 2011: 1.15pm

Sunday, November 7, 2010: 1.10pm

Saturday, April 3, 2019: 5.20pm

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