The 2015/16 UK Premier League
By Jack Miles
The much-awaited UK premier league football season kicks off in earnest on 8th August 2015 and the early season fixtures make for an exciting start. The very first match on that auspicious Saturday is between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs at 12:45pm UK time. This is followed by Bournemouth vs. Aston Villa, Everton vs. Watford and Leicester vs. Sunderland all sporting a 3pm local time kick off. At the same time Norwich face off against Crystal Palace and Chelsea plays Swansea. The first Sunday matches of the season take place at 1:30pm local time on the following day and feature battles between Arsenal and West Ham and at the same time Newcastle vs. Southampton, with a later 4pm start for Stoke vs. Liverpool.
The latter match comes hot on the heels of Liverpool’s Asia tour which included a mid July visit to Bangkok where they took on the Thai All Stars to win 4-0. Such was the popularity of the event that evening rush hour traffic came to a virtual standstill across the city while huge crowds gathered at Rajamangala stadium. Even though Thai nationals were undoubtedly rooting for the Thai All Stars, there were no shortage of Thai Liverpool fans also. Indeed Thai’s seem to be as football mad as the Brits and apart from some games where the Thai National team is playing, their dedication to British football seems to be unstoppable.
You can see this in the amount of dedication there is to the acquisition of football paraphernalia including original football shirts, full kits and other souvenirs. Clubs have been capitalizing on their specific branding and have been building out their marketing opportunities accordingly. The worldwide market for football related items has continued to grow and it contributes to making UK Football one of the most lucrative sports on the planet.
The second week of the 2015/16 season sees Arsenal defending its position in its second match of the season this time against Crystal Palace. This match is on
Sunday the 16th August with a 1:30pm UK kick off time and follows Arsenal’s win against West Bromwich Albion on the final day of the last season on the 24th May. In that match, Theo Walcott scored a hat trick in the first half and Jack Wilshere scored a goal from 20 yards to give Arsenal a 4-0 lead at half time. Albion’s Gareth McAuley scored a goal in the second half.
Both Walcott and Wilshere were returning to top form after time off in the previous year for knee and ankle injuries. After scoring they both celebrated with Declan Lynch, Arsenal's physiotherapist who has been credited with their recovery. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said "Theo had a great game today. He was on fire and moved well. Jack Wilshere as well.” He added, “I wanted to pick a team to win this game”.
Meanwhile, following the match, West Bromwich Albion's head coach Tony Pulis said, "We looked like a team who have played against Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea in the last few weeks. We've had a tough run-in. I think the performance [in our prior match] against Chelsea took a lot out of the players. Maybe I should have rested a couple, because they looked jaded. It was a disappointment because we'd done so well. We hadn't reached the standards you need. But we were better in the second half."
Also on the final day of the last season, Aston Villa struggled against Burnley with the game ending 0-1. Danny Ings was the sole goal scorer and it was his early goal, (just six minutes into the match) that stood its ground. Villa failed to equalize making it their eighth home defeat of the season.
As for the upcoming season, there has been plenty of pre season activity during the summer including Manchester United’s signing of mid=fielder Bastian Schweinsteiger from Germany’s Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for £14.4 million. This was based on a three-year contract. The club also acquired Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton on a four-year contract worth around £25 million. The Schneiderlin signing features an option for a further one year extension. The new acquisitions following an earlier £40 million summer splurge for defender Matteo Darmian and forward Memphis Depay.
Schweinsteiger said, "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Bayern Munich. It has been an incredible journey and I didn't take the decision to leave lightly.” He added, "Manchester United is the only club that I would have left Munich for. I feel ready for this new and exciting challenge in what I regard as the most competitive league in the world”. Schneiderlin said, "Once I learned that United were interested in signing me, it was a very easy decision to make.” He further commented, “I have enjoyed seven very happy years with Southampton and it's a club that will always be in my heart. But the chance to be part of this squad to help this great club be successful was too good to miss." The new season sees Manchester United facing off with Southampton on Sunday September 20th 2015 with a 4pm UK time kick off.
With kick-off times in mind, it is evident that match times are quite important to worldwide fans but especially so for fans in Thailand.
At the start of the UK Premier League season, the time difference between the UK and Thailand is six hours, which means that the majority of matches screened live on Saturdays with a 3pm UK kick off can be enjoyed quite conveniently at 9pm by both foreign tourists and Thais alike. Bars and restaurants in Pattaya and Bangkok,not previously considered as sports bars, have become quite adept at adding live streams of UK football matches on large LCD screens dotted around their establishments. Patrons can enjoy a pre kick off meal and then soak up some of the best draught beers on tap whilst enjoying the match.
After 25th October 2015 the time difference between the UK and Thailand increases to seven hours due to the end of British summer time. This does not affect the Saturday games much but there are some weekday games that kick off late in the UK, which makes watching them an all-night affair in Thailand. For example, the first weekday match of the season between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City on Monday 10th August starts at 8pm UK time. - that’s a start time of 2am in Thailand. For weekday matches that take place after the end of British summer time, such as the Jan 13th 2016 fixture of Tottenham vs. Leicester the start time will be even later in Thailand - 3am!
Still, these later times only affect weekday matches of which there are relatively few. Most of the action takes place on Saturdays with a mid afternoon kick off in the UK. It means that a vast majority of the fixtures can be enjoyed here in your favourite pub or bar starting at 9pm or 10pm, and finishing while the night is still young!