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Klopp's post-match interview turns into tense, eight-minute debate with BT Sport reporter Kelly

Des Kelly took issue with Klopp’s attempts to blame BT and their fellow broadcasters for the Premier League’s unforgiving schedule, and a lengthy argument ensued.

Jurgen Klopp arguing with BT Sport's Des Kelly.
Jurgen Klopp arguing with BT Sport's Des Kelly.

JURGEN KLOPP’S STAND-OFF with Premier League broadcasters Sky Sports and BT Sport continued apace following Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Brighton as the Reds boss and BT reporter Des Kelly engaged in a lengthy debate regarding kick-off times, TV slots and player welfare.

Last Sunday, in an interview with Sky’s Geoff Shreeves following Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over Leicester (the interview was cut off on Sky’s UK and Ireland feed but aired to its full extent on international feeds), the Reds boss lambasted both broadcasters for their roles in scheduling demands, claiming Sky and BT “don’t care” about player welfare and suggesting that “if we keep playing on Wednesday and then Saturday [at] 12:30, I’m not sure if we will finish the season with 11 players — all the top seven [clubs].”

And following his side’s 12:30pm kick-off on Saturday during which he lost James Milner through injury, Klopp again took aim at the club’s relentless schedule and its physical toll, regularly using BT reporter Des Kelly as a proxy for broadcasters as a whole.

The post-match interview already had a spicy undertone to it as Klopp accused Kelly of trying to lure him into ‘making headlines’ with questions about the controversial, VAR-assisted awarding of Brighton’s late penalty. It took a turn for the worse — or the more entertaining — however when Kelly asked Klopp if Milner had suffered an injury to his hamstring as it had appeared when he was withdrawn on 73 minutes. “Yeah. Congratulations!” Klopp said sarcastically.

“Me personally?” Kelly replied. “Oh, no,” said Klopp. “But you work for them (BT Sport). Hamstring – surprise! They [Brighton] had injuries as well because it’s tough times. Ask Chris Wilder how we can avoid that.”

BT Sport’s Kelly then suggested that Klopp was “firing at the wrong target”, explaining that BT Sport work within Premier League rules and that the league’s constituent clubs are responsible for those rules, to which the Reds boss responded: “I don’t know how often I have to say it: you picked the 12.30pm kick-off. You. Not you personally but you (BT) did it, you put us on at 12.30.

“Between now and the New Year, there’s one more Wednesday and then Saturday 12.30pm. These are difficult times.”

Kelly then retorted that the Saturday 12:30pm kick-off exists for a purpose: it is a commercially valuable time slot for Premier League clubs. Klopp argued: “If we play at 3pm or 5:30, it’s exactly the same”, with Kelly replying: “That has different ramifications [commercially].

“Your chief executive should be with the other [Premier League] chief executives having that discussion,” Kelly continued. “If you come down here and just have a go at the broadcaster, it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s not going to change anything.”

Klopp replied: “I haven’t had a go at the broadcaster, I just say how it is. After Wednesday, Saturday [at] 12:30 is really, really dangerous for the players.”

Kelly then attempted to rebuke Klopp’s previous remarks about broadcasters not caring about player welfare, only for the German to interject: “How did you pick us against Palace [on Saturday 19 December, 12:30pm] if you care?”

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Again, Kelly reiterated that such decisions rest with the Premier League, before Klopp added: “Can I just tell you one more time? It’s such a special season, you always rely on things we (the clubs) agreed in another time.”

“No, no, no,” replied Kelly. “Listen, if it was all about player welfare, then why did the Premier League clubs block the five-substitution rule?”

Klopp then appeared to briefly refocused his ire at the aforementioned Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder, saying: “That’s very interesting, now.

“When we had talks between the managers a week ago it was 15-5 if not 16-4 for five subs. Now. Since then, nothing has happened because you need at least 14 votes.

Chris Wilder — or whoever — says constantly that I am selfish. I think all the things he’s said show that he is selfish but it is not too important. I was in a similar situation that he is when I worked at Mainz and it was all about staying in the league. They (Sheffield United) have three subs and one point, if I’m right. There’s no advantage or disadvantage.

“If you can do five subs in a game like this, it’s not for tactical reasons. For example, today, if I have five subs, I take off Robbo (Andy Robertson, who conceded a penalty late) 100% and bring Kostas Tsimikas on — to save Robbo! Not to make our game better, just to save Robbo, that’s the situation.

“It’s not about bringing on players and changing tactics and the system and five players at one time, all this kind of thing. It’s not like this. It’s just to save the players.

“Yes, I will save my players but it’s not only my players that have this problem. From now on until December, you will see it — everybody will see what happens.”

Kelly then hit back: “I actually agree with what you’re saying but you’re going about it in a strange way. You’re attacking the broadcaster instead of getting the support you need in the Premier League meetings.”

Klopp responded: “I’m 100% sure you’ll get real praise because you stuck on it, the interview. So, great. What I want to say is, I only go for the broadcasters with the Wednesday-to-Saturday-12.30 [turnaround].

“Only seven managers have had a similar problem and they all agree.

“The problem is we signed a contract. Yes our CEOs, the shareholders, did that, that’s true. In other seasons, it’s a problem. But this season it’s a bigger problem because of no pre-season, because of the intensity and all that stuff, because of the shorter season.

When we have that [12:30] slot, then I say it’s not okay. Have a look how many — I’m not selfish, but I speak about Liverpool [in this example]… Until this year is over, in this part of the season, we’ve had this slot three times. I’ve spoken a lot about it. Look at who else had it three times? No one. So, of course, it’s a problem for me. It’s a problem for me to pick a team. That’s my problem.

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