West Ham and Spurs 'can rescue Friday Night Football on Sky'

Broadcaster revives concept for a London derby with repercussions at both ends of the table

Harry Kane, Spurs
Harry Kane of Spurs scores against West Ham
(Image credit: Alex Broadway/Getty)

Friday night football returns to the Premier League for the first time since Christmas as Spurs face West Ham in a big London derby this evening.

Having mothballed the concept for much of the season, Sky have dusted down the idea for a key game that could see Tottenham cut Chelsea's lead at the top of the Premier League to just one point and leave the Hammers in danger of relegation.

It is a match that could rescue the Friday night format and time slot, which been treated rather like an unwanted gift, says Jack Fox of Metro.

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"Hailed as cutting edge as a vegetable spiralizer when first unveiled at the start of the season, FNF soon found itself languishing on the shelf much like a crumb-free sandwich toaster, with Sky having used it just four times since the campaign kicked off in August," he notes."

But a feisty London derby with repercussions at either end of the table could be its saviour.

"Should it turn out as tasty as it sounds, FNF could well avoid a trip to the televisual boot fair and be given a second chance next season, unlike that ice-cream maker at the back of the wardrobe."

Spurs's first trip to West Ham's new home could be a fiery one, given the visitors had designs on the stadium and the two clubs already harbour a mutual dislike.

It is likely to be a game where, as the Daily Telegraph put it earlier this year, "the unbridled hatred pouring forth from the stands is, if anything, eclipsed by the venom that saturates relations between the two boardrooms".

For the Hammers, victory would create their first proper fond memory at their new home, while Spurs will see a win as an opportunity to compound their neighbours' dissatisfaction.

"It has been a testing first season for West Ham at the London Stadium," says Sky Sports. "Losing seven and drawing four of their first 17 league games at their new home has taken the gloss off the move to Stratford.

"Faced with Slaven Bilic's under-performing side, unrest has surfaced among the Hammers supporters, who still harbour fond memories of Upton Park. But the problems experienced this term will be a distant memory if they can end Tottenham's title hopes."

Sky Sports abandons Friday Night Football

1 March

Sky Sports appears to have given up on its Friday Night Football experiment after a mere four matches.

The broadcaster has released its schedule of televised games for April and has once again elected not to move any of the matches to Friday – the fourth month in a row it has failed to do so.

"Unless it selects a Friday match in the first two weeks of May, Sky will end the season having used less than half of ten available slots in a package it paid the Premier League hundreds of millions of pounds to acquire," says the Daily Telegraph.

Sky was given ten Friday-night slots at the start of the season and appeared to embrace the idea of showing games then, roping in Countdown's Rachel Riley to help anchor Friday Night Football alongside Jeff Stelling.

However, the first game, Manchester United against Southampton in August, was up against Team GB's victory in the Olympic women's hockey final and attracted only 811,000 viewers, half a million fewer than watched Arsenal vs Liverpool the previous Sunday.

Moving the match to Friday also angered Saints fans, who were forced to alter their travel plans.

A further two games were shown over seven weeks of the season, but they too failed to attract a large audience. Friday Night Football's last game was Hull City vs Everton on 30 December, in the middle of the Christmas holidays.

"Sky's non-selection of Friday matches in favour of its flagship Monday Night Football programme comes amid falling television ratings for Premier League games this season," adds the Telegraph.

It is an "embarrassing comedown" for the broadcaster, says the Daily Mirror, "with viewing figures paling in comparison to the long-standing Monday Night Football".

April's fixtures include three Monday night games, it adds, with Arsenal featuring twice and Liverpool once.

According to The Times, Sky "has not given up" on the timeslot but is grappling with the logistics.

"The main stumbling block is that the list is compiled six weeks in advance, allowing for variables concerning which teams will still be in which cup competitions," says the paper.

"International breaks also create havoc for potential Friday night games as many players do not return to their clubs until the Thursday or even Friday before the weekend’s domestic fixtures."

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