At a recent meeting with the Football Supporters Federation the Metropolitan Police undertook to provide a detailed explanation of the process behind decisions to change fixture kick off dates and times. This can be read below:
The fixture list for each season is generated through a process involving the relevant leagues and football authorities. This is a complex piece of work which has to include numerous considerations from clubs, local authorities and partners (including the police) as well as avoiding Cup dates and taking into account potential European fixtures. This process is managed by the relevant football authorities.
After the fixture list has been published the television companies review the list for the matches they would like to televise live. This is an ongoing review throughout the season. They do not select all fixtures for television at the beginning of the year as interest in certain games changes as the season progresses. Television companies will normally look at selecting games about two or three months in advance of the date published on the fixture list.
Once a fixture has been provisionally selected for television the host club will approach the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) members to agree any proposed changes. The SAG is chaired by the Local Authority. The Metropolitan Police is a member of each SAG in London along with other emergency services, British Transport Police with TfL and other partners. Interested parties can also attend the SAG at the discretion of the Chair.
The Chair of the SAG will consider all responses (positive or negative) and will decide whether to allow the fixture change to take place. Police can comment or object if there is likely to be a substantial impact in terms of increased crime and disorder for the local community. This is in line with our core responsibilities.
The decision to change a fixture (date or time of kick off) rests with the local authority Chair of the SAG. Police do not have the power to prevent a football match taking place at a certain time or date. The Police as with any member of the SAG, can object to certain dates or kick off times but these objections must be taken through the SAG Chair and discussed between all members of the group.
The majority of the time fixture change requests are approved by the SAG without issue. It can be inconvenient for supporters when matches are moved from one day to another but football is a private commercial event. Police comments, when made, are restricted to core policing responsibilities - protecting people and preventing crime and disorder.
On the very rare occasions that Police object to a particular fixture change request, all parties work hard together to resolve the issues and concerns. This will include talking to the club, football authorities and the SAG. Usually matters are resolved through negotiation, but if agreement cannot be reached the SAG can impose certain conditions on the club hosting the match. These conditions may include a reduction in numbers of supporters allowed into the stadium or demanding extra security and stewarding for the game. The imposition of these sanctions by SAG Chairs is very rare and are considered only when all other options have been exhausted.
It has recently been reported that Sky and BT Sport have secured a further three year deal to screen a number of Premier League and EFL games live on television. It will probably become more common for changes of fixture dates and times to occur with limited notice to satisfy the demand of TV audiences. These are primarily commercial matters between football clubs, football authorities and TV companies. The police can only engage on these changes when crime and disorder becomes a concern for us and the surrounding community.