English Football League clubs will convene next week to discuss measures that could combat the energy crisis, with Mansfield Town trialling bringing forward the kick-off time of one of their League Two games to test how much doing so saves on floodlight usage and other costs.
The EFL discussed the issue, which has long been on the agenda, at its last board meeting and will canvas its clubs in a scheduled meeting to establish potential pinch points and problems.
Thursday’s meeting will be chaired by Rick Parry, the EFL chairman, and Trevor Birch, the chief executive. There is an acknowledgement that a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to work given the financial disparities between clubs. Mansfield said they had shifted their game against Walsall on 15 October from 3pm to 1pm to “discern whether significant savings can be made”.
“The club is endeavouring to mitigate the forthcoming, considerable increase in energy bills,” Mansfield said. “Moreover, following the trial of this change in kick-off time, the club will be able to better determine whether an earlier kick-off on a Saturday would have an effect on prospective attendances.”
Mansfield are the first in the EFL to make such a move. Mansfield made a special application to the league, as per the regulations, and received the green light from safety advisory groups. Privately, clubs recognise that switching off the floodlights is not panacea for the energy crisis. Moving kick-off times to two hours earlier will not necessarily mean floodlights are not required, especially with the winter programme on the horizon. It is not a straightforward decision given any potential savings could be offset by lower attendances and lesser gate receipts. Away teams may also have to factor in overnight stays.
A survey carried out by the football reform group Fair Game across the past fortnight revealed that 63% of 40 clubs polled – including 12 EFL teams – said they would consider earlier kick-offs to reduce bills. In the survey clubs rated their concern about the cost-of-living crisis at seven out of 10, rising to more than eight out of 10 among League Two teams. Sixty per cent of the 40 clubs said they were considering halting ground improvements and 38% said they were preparing to review their non-playing staff budgets.
On Friday eighth-tier Didcot Town wrote a letter to the Southern League asking it to support any requests for earlier kick-offs as clubs battle against soaring costs.