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Most matches start at 20:00, but some start at 17:55.

Neither the time difference, nor the weather, nor even the television rights holders seem to be able to logically explain a shift for a certain match.

What is the reason behind the Champions League groups phase schedule?

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  • If it wasn't for television, the competition wouldn't exist. So they play when the networks want them to play. – Chenmunka Nov 6 at 9:20
  • That's a stretch @Chenmunka, the original competition was well established before television was common. However the reason for this is mostly just money/more tv slots. Not argueing there. – Don_Biglia Nov 15 at 14:37
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The relevant rules are in 2019/2020 UEFA Champions League Regulations:

Article 23 Confirmation of fixtures and automatic reversals
23.01 The venues, dates (in accordance with the calendar in Annex C) and kick-off times for all qualifying matches except those in the preliminary round are fixed by the home clubs and must be confirmed to the UEFA administration in writing by their respective associations by the deadline set by the UEFA administration. The UEFA administration may alter or confirm dates and kick-off times in accordance with the principles set by the Club Competitions Committee.
23.02 The UEFA administration decides on match dates and fixture reversals on a caseby-case basis and in accordance with the principles set by the Club Competitions Committee. The UEFA administration reserves the right to impose a match date in the event of clashes between matches in this competition and other UEFA club competition matches.
23.03 If more than one club from the same city, or within a radius of 50km (31 miles) of each other, is taking part in any of the UEFA club competitions and/or plays in the same stadium, and if the association and the clubs concerned explicitly declare when entering the clubs that their matches cannot be played on the same day or on consecutive days, the UEFA administration may alter or confirm dates and kickoff times in accordance with the principles set by the Club Competitions Committee.

Article 24 Venues and kick-off times
24.01 The calendar and kick-off times from the play-offs onwards are established by the UEFA administration.
24.02 The play-offs, group matches (subject to Paragraph 24.03), round of 16 matches, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final kick off at 21.00CET. Exceptions to this rule can be set by the UEFA administration.
24.03 Each matchday in the group stage, two of the Tuesday matches and two of the Wednesday matches kick off at 18.55CET. Exceptions to this rule can be made by the UEFA administration.
24.04 The fixtures within a group on the last matchday are played simultaneously

Main takeaways:

  1. Only the games on the last matchday are synchronized, to prevent unsportsmanlike behavior and/or controversy in case if one of the teams (or both teams) in the last game know what kind of result they need to achieve (examples: Argentina - Peru (WC1978), Germany - Austria (WC1982), Denmark - Sweden (Euro2004).

    We can assume that UEFA doesn't expect teams to play strategically having two games ahead.

  2. At most two group stage matches on a given day can start earlier (at 18:55 CET). UEFA decides which games to put in this time slot. The administration takes requests from home clubs into account and tries to put geographically close teams at different times. We can suppose that timezones are also taken into consideration as it seems clubs from Eastern Europe get earlier times more often than others.

And in this particular case (Matchday 4, Wednesday) the two easternmost matches started earlier:

Matchday 4, Day 2

This isn't always the case, though. Consider Matchday 2, Tuesday:

Matchday 2, Day 1

Earlier times were given to Real Madrid and Atalanta (Bergamo) much to the chagrin of Lokomotiv fans. It's unclear how exactly UEFA arrived at a decision like this. One Russian web site published a response from the unnamed representative of UEFA press services listing a number of factors taken into account :

sports justice, fan experience, commercial preferences, and practical limitations.

Conclusion: only the games on the last matchday have to be synchronized. On a given day UEFA puts at most two matches to an earlier time slot using some obscure behind-the-scene process.

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Essentialy for TV programming grid

In winter for east european countries like Russia, they play earlier so that the temperatures are not too low

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    If it was for TV, why put PSG and Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City and Juventus and Atletico Madrid all playing at the same time? If it is for weather reasons, why is Bayern Munich playing two hours before Bayer Leverkusen? – Nij Nov 6 at 7:50
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    Assuming that the times listed are the UTC times and not the local times, then that's simply not true. Moscow is two hours ahead of Western Europe, so when it's 17:55 in Western Europe, it's actually 19:55 in Moscow. – F1Krazy Nov 6 at 10:29
  • I have the same interrogations as @Nij. – Matthew Nov 6 at 14:22
  • Because german TV probably want to broadcast 2 germans teams and occupy 4 hours of shows in spite of 2. I said weather reasons for russian teams in winter – bklups Nov 7 at 7:47
  • Yet English matches were held at the same time. It's also already been pointed out that the Russian match didn't have any change for weather reasons, kickoff was still around 8pm local time. Perhaps checking the answer by defaultlocale will help. – Nij Nov 9 at 19:05
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In the case of Lokomotiv Moscow, this is due to time zones. Moscow is two hours ahead of Western Europe, so assuming those kick-off times are UTC, the match would actually have kicked off at 19:55 Moscow time. If it kicked off at 20:00 UTC, it would start at 22:00 Moscow time and finish at about midnight, and that's impractical for the spectators who are actually present at the stadium, never mind the TV viewers.

I suspect that the Bayern Munich match took place at the same time just so there wouldn't be one match that day that was out-of-sync with the rest, but I probably can't prove that, nor would I be able to prove why they chose that particular match.

As for why matches within the same group aren't synchronised, that's because they don't need to be at this stage. This only needs to happen with the final round of group games, otherwise you risk a repeat of the Disgrace of Gijon, where the teams who play second know what they need to do to qualify and can game the system at the expense of whoever played first.

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    Munich and Belgrade don't have a time difference, so why are the Group B matches at different times? – Nij Nov 6 at 17:53

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