Next season to start much earlier

Michael Appleton and Steve Thompson
Michael Appleton and Steve Thompson
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BLACKPOOL’S season will start 10 days earlier next season, unless they win promotion to the Premier League.

Following a vote among clubs, the Football League has confirmed the campaign will kick-off on August 3.

The idea is to make room for two more Saturday fixtures and reduce the number of midweek games.

While evening matches have little impact on Blackpool’s attendances, many lower league clubs experience major dips in midweek.

Pool chairman Karl Oyston and secretary Matt Williams were present at the vote and raised a number of concerns about the move. A club spokesman said: “Were we to reach the play-off final again on May 27, the players will only have only a few weeks off in the summer. We have made a number of comments to the Football League and are awaiting their response.”

Another key issue raised by clubs concerned player contracts. These usually run until June 30, meaning clubs could find themselves continuing to pay players they have released and who have started pre-season training with new clubs.

Despite those concerns, Pool do see the advantages to an earlier start.

The spokesman added: “More Saturday games would be great for our supporters. Away games on Tuesday nights are not ideal for anyone, so we appreciate the benefits of losing two.”

Next season will conclude on May 3, with the play-off finals at Wembley Stadium on May 24-26. There will again be four league games in 12 days over the Christmas period. The Premier League will be unchanged, kicking-off a fortnight later on August 17.

n POOL’S FA Cup third-round replay against Fulham has been set for next Tuesday at Bloomfield Road (8pm kick-off). Tickets are now available priced £15 (£10 concessions, £5 under-18s). Tickets will cost £5 more on match day. The winner will be away to Manchester United or West Ham in the fourth round on January 26-27.