Afternoon kick-off means far fewer viewers – but at least fans can watch live Emmerdale special afterwards
ITV is likely to be the loser after England's World Cup qualifier against Poland was switched to an afternoon kick-off but it could have been worse – the game could have clashed with its live hour-long 40th birthday episode of Emmerdale.
The Warsaw game, which should have kicked off at 8pm on Tuesday, was belatedly postponed after heavy rain made the pitch unplayable (and the Polish authorities took the bizarre decision not to close the National stadium roof).
The match will now kick off at 4pm UK time on Wednesday, with the inevitable consequence that it will be watched by far fewer viewers than if it had been played in prime time.
The new kick-off time was a compromise between the English Football Association and its Polish counterparts.
ITV said it was too early to say whether it would seek compensation from the rights holders for the changed kick-off time.
The English FA wanted the game played at 4pm local time (3pm in the UK), while the Poles wanted it to begin at 6pm local time.
Following a meeting in the referees' room after the postponement of Tuesday night's game involving the English delegation, which included the England manager, Roy Hodgson, and Adrian Bevington, the managing director of Club England, it was decided to split the difference.
A later kick-off time would have been an even bigger headache for ITV, which will mark the 40th birthday of Emmerdale with a special hour-long live edition of the soap beginning at 7pm.
It follows in the footsteps of its fellow ITV soap Coronation Street, which marked its 50th anniversary with a live episode in 2010.
The potential clash was not lost on BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Alan Green, who said during Tuesday night's (non) commentary that he had been alerted via text message by his wife about the Emmerdale special.
Fifa regulations stipulate that postponed games should be played as soon as possible after the originally intended kick-off.
The English FA was keen to play the game on Wednesday because it has a busy schedule of international fixtures over the next 15 months, including a game in Stockholm to open Sweden's new national stadium and a friendly against Brazil in February next year, part of the FA's 150th anniversary celebrations.
Hodgson and his team's fondness for Emmerdale – or otherwise – is not thought to have been part of last night's deliberations. However, ITV would have been kept informed about the decision.
Despite the entire absence of any football action, ITV1's truncated coverage on Tuesday night still averaged 4.3 million viewers (17.1%) between 7.30pm and 9.10pm. However, it was around half what it would have expected had the game gone ahead.
ITV's live football coverage on Wednesday afternoon will run from 3.30pm to 6.10pm, dropping, among other shows, the Bradley Walsh quiz The Chase. It will also show a highlights programme after News at Ten, pushing the documentary series Exposure back to 11.05pm.