Isthmian Football League clubs given early kick-off option to cope with energy bills

Rising energy bills mean many non-league football clubs may struggle to pay floodlight costs this season. Credit: PA

Some non-league football clubs are considering moving kick-off times forward to help lower their energy bills.

Clubs who play within the Isthmian Football League - steps seven and eight of the English football pyramid - have been told they can look at staging Saturday fixtures earlier than the traditional 3pm kick-off time.

In July, the league's Chairman, Nick Robinson, wrote to all clubs advising them that in order to reduce energy costs, "particularly those related to floodlights", Saturday games could start earlier so long as both participating teams agreed.

To allow players, officials and supporters enough time to make "appropriate plans" any changes should be publicised in advance, while the League Office should also be informed "as early as possible".

Energy bills have soared in recent months and things are expected to become even bleaker, after the regulator Ofgem announced the energy price cap will grow by more than 80% to £3,549 from October.

Mr Robinson told ITV News he is "very concerned" that rising energy costs could push some of his clubs to the "brink of liquidation".

"We’re trying to look at ways that we can help and one of the ways is to say to clubs ‘look when the floodlights are needed don’t use them’.

"If we can help you in that - if everybody can agree - the league will certainly agree and support any decisions made by the clubs. It’s a small piece but as they say every little helps."

The option has been offered to clubs to start matches before floodlights are needed. Credit: PA

Under the directive - which was first discussed by the league's board in March - clubs will be able to play weekend fixtures at any time that can be agreed.

Early kick-off times mean that teams could also look to livestream games as a way of bringing in additional matchday income.

Under UEFA - European football's governing body - regulations Saturday games in England are prohibited from being broadcast between 2:45pm and 5:15pm.

Mr Robinson added that while it is a fear of his that league attendances may fall, due to spectators having "less money to spend" this season, he remains hopeful that those who follow non-league football will keep coming through the gates.

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He said: "What I think we might find is that we get an additional income stream from people, particularly abroad, who may be interested in this level of the game.

"Television channels across the globe are always looking for content and who knows what might happen.

"We might pick up somebody who’s prepared to take on our streaming and provide an additional income for the league, which we can then pass onto the clubs."

Mr Robinson added that the league board are actively discussing other ways to help ease energy costs for clubs, but said he couldn't comment on specifics at this moment in time.

Asked what his message would be to the government for additional support he made a plea for grants to be issued to all clubs who use floodlights.

The English Football League (EFL) is also considering an emergency plan to help tackle energy costs for its clubs, according to The Times.

It reported that some proposals - such as early kick-off times - could be signed off at a meeting with the EFL board next month, though the plans are understood to have split opinion among teams.

Broadcasters often demand that floodlights are turned on during daylight fixtures when skies are dull.