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Credit: Veri Ivanova via Unsplash

Mastering the all-nighter: the struggle of following sports through time zones

By Adam Paton

What are time zones if not just social standards, something that are polite to observe but not necessary to live?

The second most popular sports podcast in the UK is the Guardian’s Football Weekly. Hosted by the charming Max Rushden and with a rotating cast of football correspondents, the Guardian Football Weekly is much like any other UK Football Podcast. They vaguely cover the football and spend a lot of the time on jokes, call-backs, and just general chaos. It’s then often surprising for new fans when they find out that Max Rushden no longer lives in the UK but in Australia, where he is the face of Stan Sport. This is all the more shocking when listeners find out Max Rushden also hosts a live Saturday radio show for TalkSport, building up to the weekend’s football. The host of a major podcast and radio show focusing on part of the soul of the UK lives over 11 hours ahead and must be awake through the night to see games live. Rushden then likely knows what it’s like to be a netball fan.

According to World Netball, there are 20 million regular netball players across 80 countries. These countries range from New Zealand and Australia in the South East through to Canada in the North West, and include many African and Asian nations and of course the birthplace of netball, the United Kingdom. That means to be a netball fan, it is far from uncommon to be up at 2am in Australia to watch an early afternoon match in the UK, or regular 4am and 6am wake ups in the UK to see the professional New Zealand league. I’m one of these netball fans who submits themselves to the regular destruction of sleep cycles and attempts to maintain friendships over 11 hour time zones.

However, it is more than just our sleep schedule that we sacrifice to watch 14 professionals throw a ball around in Australia. Living 11 hours ahead or behind, you often miss the build up or post-game analysis. No team wants to announce a player injured if there’s a chance of playing, but going to sleep six hours before a match and waking up during the warm-up can leave you with a severe lack of knowledge about speculation, reporting, and announcements in the hour before a match. In a rapidly professionalising sport with multiple live games on national television every week (all matches in Australia and New Zealand, around two-thirds in the UK), the build-up and social media is a vital part of the increasing professionalisation. It does then feel like a waste of time and energy when many committed fans will only see this after the match when properly awake. That is of course all reliant on fans hearing their alarm and waking up in time for games.

“Living 11 hours ahead or behind, you often miss the build up or post-game analysis…”

That all said, there is perhaps a method being used by some Australians, which plays into the student mindset – the all-nighter. It can be confidently claimed that students are the masters of the all-nighter and perhaps netball and rugby fans in Australia could receive training from some British students. Go out hard on a Saturday night, still awake and suitably sober by the time early morning rolls around and the first Sunday morning/night game kicks off. 

Perhaps then, Max Rushden has it right. What are time zones if not just social standards, something that are polite to observe but not necessary to live? Enjoy living and studying in the warmth of Sydney or the rain of Glasgow but enjoy sport anywhere on Earth, live or on-demand. Although there’s nothing like watching your team win a Grand Final live, there is always catch-up and on-demand services. Not that they’ll stop me when there’s the buzz of live sport and a lack of sleep to get me through early morning games.


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