English tradition kicked into touch

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London, Oct 4: English soccer will have a distinctly unfamiliar look about it this weekend when just one match in the top flight kicks off at the traditional time of three o'clock (1930 IST) on a Saturday afternoon.

The only Premier League match starting then is the game between Aston Villa and West Ham United at Villa Park.

Just one other game is being played on Saturday when champions Manchester United host Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford in an early kickoff (0515 IST), with United looking to go top of the table with a victory.

The other eight games are all on Sunday afternoon including the match between league leaders Arsenal and Roy Keane's Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium.

Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, defended this weekend's timetable in an article yesterday's Guardian.

''We are mindful of the traditions that make English football what it is, and the match-going fan is central to that, as is keeping a decent number of matches at the traditional Saturday 3pm slot, but fans need to appreciate that the Premier League does not operate in a bubble,'' he wrote.

''This weekend's fixtures are an anomaly.

''Out of the 10 matches only three have been displaced ostensibly for television, and of those, only two to the Sunday.

''The remaining six have been moved due to participation in the UEFA Cup (Blackburn, Bolton, Everton and Tottenham, transport issues (Arsenal), and a combination of the police and UEFA (Manchester City). It is a set of circumstances we do not envisage happening again.''


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