Ligue 1 announces plans to create a new kick-off time to boost visibility in Asia

It’s no secret that the biggest European football leagues are in competition with each other, competing for fans in countries around the world. Digital media has made it possible for football fans in territories in Asia and the Americas to become fans of European teams and follow them just as closely as those in traditional markets at home.

Efforts are being focused to garner support from all corners of the globe. With enough fans at home, why not look abroad for new ways to make money? Whether that’s individual clubs setting up foreign-language social media accounts to communicate directly to potential new fans in their own languages or leagues themselves providing help to their clubs to do this – as La Liga have done recently, running Chinese-language social media accounts for some of their smaller clubs. So it’s no surprise when they each try to one-up each other in the search for new ways to attract a global audience to their games.

This week, the LFP, the French professional football league, have announced that a new kick-off time will be used for Sunday games from the 2020/21 season. And by scheduling games earlier in the day, they believe fans in Asia will be able to tune in more easily.

Didier Quillot, CEO, LFP, told SportsPro, “Today we are catching up with Serie A (Italian top flight) in terms of value and attractiveness. We need to catch up with Bundesliga (German top flight), but it is a long journey.”

Social media is just one way of attracting an audience, telling them a story and getting them hooked. Fans who didn’t grow up with a sport or a particular club have to choose a team to support, somehow, and it makes sense that they would support a club they had a greater affinity with.

Still, as potent a tool as social media has become, and as gushing as the always-on stream of football content is, the live games are still the main attraction. The ‘soap opera’ of football keeps fans hooked throughout the week, but matches are still set-piece events, and without them everything else makes little sense.

In recent years, La Liga in particular has taken a clear interest in scheduling games for overseas audiences. Earlier this season, the Clasico game between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Nou Camp kicked off at 4.15pm Spanish time – and crucially 3.15 UK time, given that the traditional Saturday 3pm kick-off for Premier League games is now reserved for the less attractive matches of the weekend. That appears to be a tactic the Spanish league is following for some of its showcast games, and the December 2017 Clasico, meanwhile, took place early on a Saturday lunchtime.

Such timings show that the Spanish league is looking to schedule some of its high profile games whenever Asian audiences will be watching. Interestingly, it also appears to be thinking about taking time slots when it won’t be competing with the biggest Premier League games.

In the battle for fans in football’s new frontiers, every little helps.

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About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 836 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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