Dear Roker Report,
I thought that I’d pass along to you a letter that I have sent to the EFL, Sky and Sunderland AFC regarding the abhorrent decision to move our game with Fulham to a Friday night for live TV coverage on three week’s notice.
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I’m writing again as I haven’t received a satisfactory reply to my previous email correspondence with the EFL and also a telephone call I had to the Liaison office on Wednesday afternoon.
The EFL in their own guidelines/policy have a 5 week cut off date to confirm which fixtures have been selected for SKY TV and this included the penultimate games on the 28th April weekend.
Taken from the EFL’s fans charter page:
“The EFL maintains regular dialogue with Sky to ensure that any Sky Bet EFL matches set to be displaced for live coverage are done so as soon as is practically possible. In a joint commitment by both the EFL and Sky Sports, decisions on televised fixtures are to be made at a minimum of 5 weeks before the match to assist attending supporters.”
This also taken from the EFL’s ‘Away Fan Experience’ page :
“The EFL is proud to support the many football fans who follow their clubs on the road each season and the Away Fan Experience Project aims to continually support clubs in enhancing their matchday experiences for all away fans across the EFL.”
With that in mind the EFL then release this statement on the 29th March stating they have completely torn up their own guidelines (with SKY) and decided to announce the penultimate games on the 4th April - Leaving only three weeks and three days before the match day. The three days before the period starts so the clubs involved couldn’t decline the change of fixture.
This is completely unacceptable to travelling fans and has been done to simply suit the EFL and SKY with no thought at all given to Sunderland fans travelling to London. There are no trains that late to the North East after the game on a Friday evening, plus fans will now have to take leave from work because of the short notice.
I waited until the 5 week deadline had expired before I booked travel and accommodation in London for the Fulham match. By waiting for the minimum five weeks to go by I already incurred higher costs, as its so close to the fixture, plus as its widely known costs this late are non refundable and hotels on a non cancellation basis.
So as a fan I’m now financially out of pocket for travel and accommodation that was booked in line with the EFL’s policy on scheduling TV games. The EFL and SKY don’t come out of this at all well given you changed the rule to 3 weeks notice which then didn’t give the clubs any chance to decline the change.
My first reaction was real annoyance with Sunderland AFC as I believed they could have turned down the request. However after fully reading both statements from 29th March and 4th April the EFL and SKY left both Sunderland and Fulham as the ‘bad guys’ and fielding complaints from their own fans who have lost out.
Can I ask at this stage that someone from the EFL or SKY (not a stock reply pointing me to the internet statement) explains to me how this is acceptable that a genuine fan of an EFL team is left financially out of pocket by the direct actions of the EFL and SKY outside of their set down and visible guidelines?
The statement thanked fans for “their flexibility” and “patience and understanding” - how is three weeks notice being flexible? It’s completely unacceptable.
The irony of this is that the fixture could be meaningless by then as Sunderland will most likely be relegated, and if Cardiff win this Friday it seems certain they will capture second place.
So - it’ll likely be a nothing game live on TV with hundreds of fans like me as I mentioned out of pocket. There’s further irony in the statement, as it states you didn’t want to show matches with ‘no impact on outstanding issues’.
What are the EFL/SKY prepared to do for fans like me who went with the guidelines, waited for the date to go by and then found themselves left out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of pounds for booked travel and accommodation?
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Ed’s note [Gav]: You’re absolutely bang on and unfortunately I wouldn’t expect to get any sort of sensible reply from any of the people you’ve directed your complaint towards because, as we’ve learned over many years, the bodies that effectively control football in this country don’t care a jot about regular fans or their enjoyment of the game.
Hopefully the FSF take this complaint seriously on behalf of Sunderland supporters and something can be done, but I wouldn’t hold out any hope, sadly.