Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: Sky and EFL have treated fans with contempt

PNE fans during the club's last visit to The Valley in 2015
PNE fans during the club's last visit to The Valley in 2015

Stating the obvious, Sky Sports won few friends in Preston when they announced their latest live broadcast offering.

With a few words they ruined the plans for plenty of PNE-supporting folk for the first weekend of November.

North End were meant to be riding into The Valley to play Charlton Athletic on Saturday, November 2.

There’s little to better a Saturday London away day, this to be the first visit to the home of the Addicks for more than four years.

With a little more than five weeks’ notice, Sky chose to put the game back to the Sunday…at noon.

Such a move instantly made train tickets bought in advance for the Saturday useless.

There is no train on the Sunday morning which will get you to the capital in time for kick-off.

A fan-unfriendly move in the extreme, isn’t football meant to be nothing without its fans?

Now, Sky move matches on a regular basis.

In the Premier League, the fixture list is but a rough guide before Sky and BT get their mitts on the games and move them left, right and centre.

They are the paymasters and call the shots.

In moving Preston’s clash with Charlton, they haven’t broken any agreement but it is so damned annoying.

August 30 was the date for the announcement of games chosen for live broadcast on Sky between October 2 and November 9.

However on the official EFL website that came with the rider – ‘illustrative but subject to a five-week minimum notice commitment’.

In layman’s terms, the cut-off in the spirt of things for a date change was August 30 but matches can still be changed just five weeks ahead of the game.

Sky’s announcement of the Charlton switch fell a couple of days within the five weeks. That explanation doesn’t make it any easier to accept, in fact it is a great deal more annoying.

Several parties got it in the neck in the aftermath of the game being switched.

Sky Sports – rightly so – the EFL, again rightly so, Virgin Trains unfairly and North End themselves unfairly. Virgin didn’t do anything wrong, they didn’t change the date and kick-off time.

They just don’t happen to have trains running at some ungodly hour on a Sunday to get people to Euston.

North End as the away team had no involvement in the fixture change.

They got little notice of the change. Had they been at home, PNE would have been consulted over policing and safety. But this was one for Charlton.

There were calls on social media for North End to lay on free transport to the game to help soften the blow.

In reality, how many of those fans intending to travel by train on Saturday would go on Sunday?

I would say that many who follow PNE to London away games go by train and get themselves a good deal by booking well in advance when seats are first released.

It’s a day out, a day with mates, a few scoops – several in some cases – back home on the 19.30 service and around town for a couple more before home, bed and a Sunday to recover.

I’m not saying that is the routine of every supporter – perhaps I’m generalising a touch too much.

But you understand where I’m coming from.

Free transport would have to be on coaches.

Can you compare two hours and 10 minutes on the Pendolino to London to five hours sat on a coach?

For those who now can’t go to London on the Sunday, the only way to watch the game is on Sky. There’s the irony.

I would hazard a guess that had the game stayed on the Saturday, we would be looking at a following of 1,500 to 1,800 from PNE.

The last visit there was a Tuesday night, so a Saturday date was an attractive one.

How many can get there for Sunday lunch? A few hundred probably. Still a good following but look what it could have been.

It’s a month away but over the next few weeks hopefully Preston can maintain their form and then put up a fine show for the cameras.

Staying on the subject of fans, or rather a fan, my best wishes go to Ilene Booth as she recovers in hospital from illness.

Ilene is something of a character, following PNE the length of the country on board the official coaches.

She’s livened up many a fans’ forum over the years, a liking for Jon Parkin always getting a mention!

Ilene, we all hope you make the quickest recovery and are back at Deepdale soon.

On the pitch, North End have had two draws in the last week and will hope to get back to winning ways when they host Barnsley.

Would we rather have had two draws and maintain the unbeaten run, or a win and defeat and the extra point?

This might have been one of those occasions when the unbeaten run was slightly more preferable in order to keep the confidence high.

As the season goes on though, the accumulation of points takes over.

The draws with Bristol City and Middlesbrough were contrasting. Last weeks’ 3-3 draw was a belter in a 90-minute downpour, the Boro one more sedate.