'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
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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.
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.
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
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