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Will election debates play second fiddle to football?

Michael Crick | 18:17 UK time, Friday, 22 January 2010

It's now clear that TV election debates will now happen.

The original plan was to hold one every Wednesday for the last three full weeks of the campaign.

So if, as expected, the election is on 6 May, then it was hoped the debates would be broadcast around 8pm on following nights:

Wednesday 14 April (ITV)
Wednesday 21 April (Sky)
Wednesday 28 April (BBC)

Only there's a big problem.

The first two weeks are also the weeks of the two legs of the semi-finals of the European Cup - what's absurdly called the Champions League by many people these days.

(I refuse to call it by such a stupid title. If it's a "league" then tell me who came third last year, or fifth, or bottom? And, as one of the few political journalists who has actually touched the trophy, I can assure you that the words European Champions Cup are engraved upon it - only in French.)

Anyway, with three English teams still left in the last 16 of the competition - Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United - and given recent performances by English sides (three English clubs got to the semis in each of the last three seasons) it's pretty likely that at least one English side will be involved this April, quite possibly more.

And Sky and ITV will be broadcasting the games live at 7.45pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Any TV scheduler would be an idiot to run the election debates against the European Cup semi-final.

Switching the debates to Tuesday simply confronts the same problem.

And we won't know which English teams are still in the competition, or what days they are playing, until the quarter finals are over on 6 April.

OK, the broadcasters could hold the debates on the Thursdays, but that runs up against the subsidiary European football competition, the (equally stupidly named) Europa League.

There Liverpool must have a good chance of reaching the semi-finals, and Everton and Fulham are also strong contenders.

Europa League matches, as we Manchester United fans keep reminding our Liverpool friends, are televised on "Thursday nights on Channel Five" and this year's semi-finals are scheduled for Thursday 22 and 29 April.

The only solution, surely, is to go for Mondays or Fridays, or even a day at the weekend?


  • Comment number 1.


    With the times that they are schedule to air, probably the election debates are going to play second fiddle to football....

    NB: I don't have any participation in politics in the United Kingdom.

    -Dennis Junior-

  • Comment number 2.


    Are not politics and football both 'Sound and Fury signifying nothing'?

  • Comment number 3.

    Harold Wilson moved Alf Garnett because he feared that Labour would suffer if the show went ahead......Liverpool may be at home that night so Labour might suffer, make a change from Liverpool...

  • Comment number 4.

    What a sad, sad blog on the state of dimocracy(sic) in this sick country.

    There are brave young men and women dying in lands far away for this crappy state that we live in.

    Shame on you Michael Crick...shame on you BBC for sucking up to this country's venal and incorrigible establishment!

    It's all just a game...isn't it?

  • Comment number 5.

    0100 on a Sunday morning

    No clash with football and perfect for insomniacs.

    One stone. Two birds.

  • Comment number 6.

    You're not ok with the description of the champions league but you're fine with these being described as debates?

    I'm not convinced that football and the debates are going for the same audience.
    Ratings for football on sky rarely go over 1m so that's hardly a lot of viewers.

  • Comment number 7.

    Man U won't be playing, Michael, so you'll be free at least

  • Comment number 8.

    Then close down the football: no problem. There's too much of it on telly anyway and everyone enagaged in it seems to be called Gary.

    `What do you think about Gary's kick at goal, Gary?'

    `Not sure, Gary, but it had a definite touch of Gary about it? What's your view, Gary?'

    `Now you ask me Gary, it looked very much as though Gary side-stepped Gary. Back to you Gary.'

    Alternatively, call a state of emergency and scrub the election. The peasants will have their bread and circuses to keep them occupied so why worry about democracy?

  • Comment number 9.

    Michael- a couple of points.

    1. Semi- Final dates will be know before the QF as the QF and SF draws take place at the same time. If only 2 Eng teams progress then we will know which nights that may be on the day of the QF draw. This may show that 2 Eng teams will meet in the SF if they both win their QF. One will be on Tue, one on Wed so only one Wed night debate will need to be moved
    2. 14th Apr is unaffected
    3. Games on Tue are exclusive to Sky- far lower audience than ITV on Wed. Debates should go on Tue over Wed

  • Comment number 10.

    Unlike that well know product advertised on TV, the Champions League does not do exactly what it say on the tin, or in this case the cup. For whilst you rightly point out can we tell you who finished 5th if it really were a Champions League. I could equally point out, if it is in fact the Champions Cup, how come England has 4 'Champions'?

    Basically it is a bastardised competition, and probably should be called the 'Money Grabbers Reality TV Football Show', and not worth watching until the knockout stages, except if you haven't anything else to do. The fact it has also managed to destroy the Cup Winners Cup and the old Inter Cities Fairs competitions is a disgraceful indictment of the modern football rulers.

    As for the Europa League, a second rate competition with, & apologies to Liverpool, but the facts cannot be denied, Premiership mid table strugglers being rated strong contenders!?

    Still, once the Premiership teams start imploding with debt, things may get a bit more interesting. What an irony it would be if United had to sell Rooney to Barcelona to reduce their debt, I suspect Everton fans might then start to believe in Poetic Justice, the Tooth Fairy, Father Christmas and the daily Policy announcements coming out of Downing Street
    If the football authorities had any sense, they would arrange Europa League games at the same time as these 'Debates', do that and suddenly the Europa League starts to look interesting.


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