Manchester City fans are facing major disruption after it was announced their match at Tottenham had been rescheduled for Oct 29 at Wembley, with White Hart Lane unlikely to be finished in time. The North London side should be facing a punishment for the mess and a big fine or a points deduction would be fitting.
Frankly, they shouldn't be far off forfeiting the match entirely.
Delays in building the new White Hart Lane are not City's problem, and yet it's their team and their fans that are being inconvenienced by it. Switching the game from Sunday at 4pm to Monday at 8pm will leave the travelling supporters having to make significant changes to their plans. It could mean some that were planning to attend can't make it at all -- and that's just plain wrong.
Away ticket prices have been capped at £30, meaning fans won't be overcharged, but they're still being messed around with late changes to the schedule. Train tickets, for example, are much cheaper booked in advance, with some unable to be refunded and others incurring a charge for the journey to be changed.
Manchester City have put on free coach travel for their own fans to get to the game instead, but that doesn't solve the issue of fans having to make new plans and possibly book time off work. It's a good gesture from the club, but it's not a problem they should have had to step in to solve.
There shouldn't be this sort of confusion once the season has already begun. It's an issue that should have been sorted out before a ball was kicked in August, since delays in the construction of White Hart Lane were known about, and it wouldn't have left supporters being dragged from pillar to post as games are moved to accommodate Tottenham's problems.
Their statement said that the stadium might be ready to host but it wouldn't be known until closer to the date of the match -- so a decision was made to move it to Wembley to give supporters time to make arrangements. Even so, you can understand why the travelling fans will be left feeling dumped on given the change.
The problem arose because a number of factors came together to create a perfect storm. The fixtures couldn't be swapped, playing the first meeting between the teams at the Etihad instead of the second, as that would have left Pep Guardiola's side with three away matches on the bounce at the end of April.
The game also couldn't go ahead in the time slot planned for broadcast on television at Wembley, because it clashed with the Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL match at the national stadium on the same day. The match had already been moved for television, something fans can reasonably expect and plan for, but a second switch is almost unheard of for something other than one team's involvement in Europe. That's had a knock-on effect elsewhere, too -- and City's rivals aren't happy about it, either.
The prospect of playing a Premier League match on a pitch churned up by an NFL match isn't especially appealing. You suspect that City have agreed to play the fixture on the Monday evening through gritted teeth and that behind closed doors the club are far from happy at the situation.
Both teams have been some of the most attractive to watch in recent seasons, liking to get the ball down and play, and Pep Guardiola's side could be robbed of the opportunity to perform as they'd like to because of the state of the pitch.
It gets worse, too. This absolute shambles could have a knock-on effect to the following week of City's season. It's not unreasonable to think that the Champions will progress past Oxford United in the third round of their defence of the Carabao Cup, and if they did it would put a midweek fixture in their calendar immediately after that trip to Tottenham.
The likelihood is that any cup game would then be moved to the Thursday, pushing City's home tie with Southampton to the following Sunday. In that scenario, it's not just the City fans that are being screwed around -- but there is a whole bunch of other clubs now being dragged into the mess.
Once again it's the fans who have to suck it up and get on with it.