On Saturday October 6, Aston Villa host the only match to kick off at 3pm in the Barclays Premier League. Lisa Smith gauges the fans' response.

October 6, 2007 - day one of a "dark weekend" for football fans.

On that day Aston Villa play in the sole surviving 3pm Saturday kick-off in a Barclays Premier League fixture list which has been wrecked by Uefa Cup obligations and televised matches.

And while Villa fans will delight in the fact their encounter with West Ham has survived the schedule changes on that day, they have nothing but sympathy for the other supporters up and down the country because they themselves are frequently victims of the fixture carve-ups.

Supporters have accused the Premier League of selling itself to TV companies with the view to making huge profits rather than selling itself to genuine fans.

Among those with this view was chartered quantity surveyor Tony Fleming, aged 39, of Redditch, a Villa season ticket holder in the Doug Ellis stand.

Tony said: "So far this season Villa have had just one 3pm Saturday kick-off at home to Fulham while we have also had two 5.15pm starts and a 4pm Sunday match.

"While our encounter with West Ham has survived the traditional time for football unscathed, we first meet Manchester City in a 4pm Sunday fixture on September 16 at Eastlands and then Everton in the ridiculous new slot of 2pm on a Sunday.

"Unfortunately the 3pm Saturday kick-off time has now become something of a novelty rather than a tradition and as supporters we tend to relish and enjoy the old 3pm encounters far more because they are like football used to be.

"The loss of our tradition is, unfortunately, the price we pay for televising football. Clubs in this league have certainly sold themselves to TV companies rather the fans."

His views were shared by electrician Richard Mitchell, aged 53, from Kings Norton, who is a season ticket holder in the Holte End.

He said: "The fixture lists come out with most of the games listed at 3pm on Saturdays but you know within days this will change.

"It is impossible to plan your life around football anymore and I am convinced attendances suffer as a result because fans have family commitments on Sundays and cannot get to games.

"A lot of fans are parents with youngsters who play Sunday League football themselves so a 2pm Sunday kick-off is nigh on impossible.

"I know some fixtures have been moved because of European competitions but then why have they been switched to Thursday instead of the traditional Wednesday evening slot?"

Villa's position as the sole surviving traditional kick-off time on October 6 has set a new Premier League record with only one other fixture clinging on to Saturday status that day - the televised clash between Manchester United and Wigan Athletic moves to 12.45pm for TV.

The other eight matches of that weekend will be played the following day with kick-off times ranging from noon to 4.10pm.

Four have been switched because the teams involved are playing in the Uefa Cup on the previous Thursday while police have insisted the Manchester City versus Middlesbrough game is switched to noon for safety reasons.

Fans' leaders now plan to complain to the Premier League about the timings.

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters' Federation, said: "Fans still very much like the traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off and the decline in that element of the game is a matter of great concern.

"For there to be just one game kicking off at that time is quite extraordinary and it will be a dark weekend for fans.

"It's symbolic of the way things are going but the views of the match-going fan seem to be bottom of the list of priorities. We will certainly bring this up at our next meeting with the Premier League."

A Premier League spokesman said: "It is a combination of factors - teams featuring in Europe, television games and policing issues.

"We always try to give fans as much notice as possible as our research shows that if we do that, then they can make the appropriate travel arrangements."

Teams involved in the Uefa Cup do not have to play on a Sunday but under Premier League rules they have a right do so if it does not have an impact on the opposing team.