Given that Chelsea’s Champions League game tomorrow night is going ahead, it was a bit surprising and disappointing that Arsenal’s game against PSV on Thursday was cancelled.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that from Thursday, the Queen’s coffin will lie in state, requiring greater police presence for those days and the 24 hour a day access to the public. Perhaps it’s that the 60,000 at the Emirates, plus a significant contingent of away fans stretches police resources too far.
Suffice to say though, this was not Arsenal’s decision. The club wanted to play the match, and I’m told that ‘all options’ were explored. Quite why a behind closed doors game isn’t going ahead, or a game without away fans, I don’t know. It could be that there’s still some police requirement for those scenarios; maybe Arsenal didn’t want to give up the revenue of a match day (understandably enough); or maybe there are rules precluding games going on behind closed doors unless it’s for something disciplinary – UEFA do have sponsors and advertisers to keep sweet, after all.
Suggestions we simply flip the fixture and play this game in Eindhoven sound good, but logistically it’s very difficult. The amount of planning required, stadium management, staffing, resources, policing, travel, broadcasting, equipment, hotels etc, make it basically impossible at such short notice. Similarly, playing at a ‘neutral’ venue presents the same problems.
Whatever the reason, it now presents Arsenal with a real head-scratcher because as it stands there’s literally no space in the fixture list to reschedule this one. After the Interlull which kicks in after the Brentford game on Sunday, we have weekend and midweek action every week until the break for the World Cup. The final Europa League group stage games are down to be played on November 3rd, when we face FC Zurich at home, while PSV play Bodo/Glimt.
Look at the schedule, there are nine (9!) games in October already:
Saturday Oct 1st: Sp*rs (H)
Thursday Oct 6th: Bodo/Glimt (H)
Sunday Oct 9th: Liverpool (H)
Thursday Oct 13th: Bodo/Glimt (A)
Sunday Oct 16th: Leeds (A)
Wednesday Oct 19th: Man City (H)
Sunday Oct 23rd: Southampton (A)
Thursday Oct 27th: PSV Eindhoven (A)
Sunday Oct 30th: Nottingham Forest (H)
Thursday Nov 3rd: FC Zurich (H)
There are then three more matches to be played between November 6th, which is when the Chelsea game will be moved to, and November 12th when the World Cup break happens. The EFL Cup game on November 8th is another people have talked about moving to make way for PSV, but given it’s happening after the date of the final Europa League group game, I don’t see how that works.
Unless special dispensation is given by UEFA, those final games have to be played at the same time, in the interests of fairness and sporting integrity. The date people are talking about is the Premier League game on October 19th, when we host Man City. I suppose it’s not impossible that it could be postponed to slot the European game in, but while I don’t know the protocols for such events, it surely depends on whether or not PSV agree to that date. Maybe it doesn’t suit them. And what we do in that scenario, I just don’t know.
UEFA rules on forfeiting state: If a match cannot take place or cannot be played in full, the member association or club responsible forfeits the match.
It would be extraordinarily harsh on Arsenal if that were the case, but it must surely be a possibility. It’s not our fault we can’t play, but ultimately we’re the host club and we can’t fulfil the fixture. Hopefully a date can be arranged, but I think PSV would be within their rights to explore the option. Some might view it as unsporting, and given the extraordinary circumstances that would bring us to that point I don’t think that’s unreasonable, nevertheless I could understand it if they made this entirely an Arsenal problem.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I can’t think of another situation quite like this one before, so there’s not a lot of precedent go on. The ideal outcome is we play on a rescheduled date, but as I’ve outlined, it’s pretty complicated. Let’s hope there’s some understanding from all involved and a new date can be found.
The fact that Thursday night’s game is cancelled and Sunday’s game with Brentford goes ahead is also just a little confusing, given it’s the day before the funeral. I know there’s a difference in capacity (17,250 versus 60,000) so it would require fewer resources, but still. Changing the kick off time from 2pm to 12 noon is also a bit weird. I don’t quite understand that, beyond a nagging doubt those on high want to prevent football fans from having a couple of hours in the pub before the game kicks off.
Anyway, let’s see what happens. In this season of all seasons more fixture mayhem is the last thing anyone needs, but it’s what we’ve got to deal with right now.
Ok, that it’s for now. There’s a brand new Arsecast Extra for you below, happy listening.