Who determines the time at which a sporting event will be held?

The timing of sporting events

The dates and the actual time that an event is played can be integral to any sporting event. In most cases the decision as to when an event will take place rests with the body in control of the event.

For example when looking at the football World Cup the actual timing of the matches will be set at three different times on a daily basis by the governing body, FIFA.

These timings will be set in stone before the event, meaning that there will be no change in the actual times of matches.

How will FIFA make the decision on timing?

This decision will be made by FIFA taking into account a variety of factors such as:

  • The time zone of the country holding the event
  • Any security concerns
  • The broadcast of certain matches such as the final

For which match will FIFA arguably be able to change the original timing?

During the World Cup matches are played continually every day meaning that there is very little scope to change the original schedules timing of a match.

However, the timing of the final is something which could potentially be subject to change.

For what reason would this be changed?

There could be a variety of reasons cited to necessitate a change in this manner with the most likely being some form of security concern. If for example the police feel the safety of supporters may be guaranteed by playing the match at an earlier time then this may be taken into consideration.

However, the final decision will always rest with the governing body.

Are other major sporting events as rigid in timing as the World Cup?

The World Cup schedule needs to be set in stone due to the nature of the tournament meaning there is little scope for change.

However, an event such as the Olympic Games may be able to switch the days of certain events. The reason for this is due to the nature of the Olympics it is made up of a number of different events so if one was moved it wouldn’t necessarily affect the schedule for the rest of the event.

Why would the timing of an Olympic event be moved?

Many of the events contained during an Olympic Games will be played within the Olympic arenas meaning that they have no effect on the outside world. However, this is not the case in relation to certain events which may have an effect on the city hosting the games. In relation to these events the government of the country or city may wish to have the timing of the event changed.

When would this occur?

Recently the mayor of London has stated his desire to have the marathon event during the 2012 Olympic Games moved from a weekday to a weekend.

Why is this the case?

The reason for this requested change is that when the marathon is held in London it will be done throughout much of the city and will require closure of many of the roads. The mayor feels that if the event were held on a weekend it would cause far less disruption to the city than if it were held during the week.

Which body is charged with making this change?

The body which is in charge of the scheduling for the Olympic Games is the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and it is their final decision as to whether to make the scheduling change. They are required to listen to any proposed changes from the government but they are not necessarily obliged to make them.

Can any other bodies have an influence over the timing of a sporting event?

It is usual that the following bodies will have a say in the timing of sporting events held in the United Kingdom:

  • The police
  • The broadcaster of the event

Using the example of Football Association Premier League matches this influence is able to be seen.

The Police

When the Premier League fixture list is first produced the games will be scheduled force certain times. Accordingly the police can make a request to the Premier League to have this time changed.

What would be the reason for this request?

This often happens when two teams with a huge rivalry, often located in close vicinity to each other or in the same city, play each other. For these matches there may be an increased risk of supporter violence especially where alcohol is concerned. If this is the case the police may make a request to the Premier League to have the match moved to an early afternoon kick-off. 

If the match is an early afternoon kick-off there may be less chance of spectator violence as the possible time for supporters to spend drinking before the match severely decreases.

The Premier League would be bound to listen to the advice of the police in this situation.

The broadcaster of the event

The Premier League is in agreement with Sky for the broadcast of live football matches. It follows that when the Premier League issues the fixture list Sky will decide which matches it wishes to broadcast. This will mean that the timing of the match is moved to a time and date when it is legal for it to be broadcast. For example matches shown between 3 and 5 on a Saturday cannot be broadcast live under the Broadcasting Act.

If Sky wishes to show these matches live then they will have to be moved. The Premier League will be under an obligation to do this under the agreement between them and the broadcaster.

Is there any reason why the Premier League may decide to move the scheduling of the match themselves?

Often the Premier League will be required to move the scheduling of an event themselves if there is a clash between fixtures as one of the teams involved may be participating in a different competition. In the case of one of the teams playing in the FA Cup or League Cup the game will have to be rearranged.

In other cases one of the teams may have been playing in European competition so the Premier League has moved the match forward or back a day to give the team more time to rest.