Sunday 11 December 2016

Manchester United opening game moved to Friday night because of EDL threat

Mark Ogden

Published 04/07/2015 | 02:30

France's midfielder Paul Pogba
France's midfielder Paul Pogba

Aston Villa have been forced to stage their Premier League fixture against Manchester United on a Friday night next month due to West Midlands Police focusing their resources on a march by the English Defence League 24 hours later.

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United, whose Old Trafford clash against Tottenham on August 8 will kick off the 2015-16 season as BT Sports' first live game of the campaign at 12.45, are due to have six of their first seven league games screened live by BT or Sky Sports.

The trip to Villa Park will offer an early taste of Friday night football ahead of the broadcasting deal which will see up to 10 games a season screened live on Fridays between 2016-19.

The Premier League have insisted, however, that the Villa-United fixture is likely to be a one-off Friday night game next season due to the unique circumstances surrounding the decision to switch the match.

It will be the first top-flight fixture played on a Friday night, outside of Bank Holidays, since Arsenal entertained Newcastle at Highbury in September 2003.

In a statement, the Premier League said: "The second match-round of the 2015/16 season includes Aston Villa v Manchester United scheduled for live broadcast on Sky Sports at 7.45 on Friday, August 14.

"A Saturday 5.30pm kick-off was initially suggested for this match and West Midlands Police confirmed that, under normal circumstances, that would be acceptable.

"However, due to a planned English Defence League march that will take place in the region on Saturday, August 15, and will require police resource, they requested that the Premier League consider avoiding scheduling the match on that date.

"Manchester United's participation in the Champions League, and a potential European match the following Tuesday, means that a Sunday slot could not be scheduled with any certainty."

The EDL march, which is due to take place 10 miles from Villa Park in Walsall, is the primary reason for the Villa-United clash being brought forward 24 hours.

But with United not due to discover their Champions League play-off opponents until August 7, the prospect of a first leg being played on August 18 ruled out the possibility of the Villa game being staged any later than Saturday, August 15.

While United and Spurs will launch BT Sports' coverage of the new season, the first game of Chelsea's defence of the Premier League title will be broadcast live by Sky at 5.30 on August 8.

Meanwhile, Manchester City are expected to spend in excess of £100m on new signings this summer after having their transfer restrictions lifted by UEFA.

City were issued with a £49m fine and forced to submit a reduced Champions League squad of 21 players last season after breaching UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations.

But after meeting UEFA's break-even targets, City are now free to pursue top targets Paul Pogba, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.

An £8m move for Aston Villa's midfielder Fabian Delph is also being considered by City, with Barcelona leading the race for Pogba.

Despite being cleared by UEFA to spend freely in the transfer market, City have been warned that they will continue to have their finances monitored in order to ensure that they continue to meet strict guidelines.

French champions Paris Saint-Germain have also had their FFP-related sanctions lifted.

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