Written by Mark Gordon
Last week the Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp became the latest within British football to criticise the festive fixture scheduling. This prompted mixed responses from the fans and media.
The German’s argument is simple and fair. He says he understands the tradition of holiday games but disagrees with making players play twice in little over 48 hours.
Many players, and I’m sure many fans, support his view. There will always be some however who will use the ‘they’re getting paid a fortune’ line or ‘they never used to moan about it in the good old days’.
Then of course, you have the television companies. They use the ‘tradition’ of festive football as an excuse to move fixtures around in order to provide the arm chair fans with something to watch whilst polishing off the left-over turkey.
It appears nowadays that the TV companies are using this ‘tradition’ as a reason to add in an extra round of fixtures. As well as this they move matches around to cover almost every day between Christmas and New Year. Surely if they were to be in keeping with tradition all the games would be on Boxing Day and New Years’ Day?
Isn’t it funny how they can play fast and loose with the term ‘traditional’ when it suits them but, as in the case of the FA Cup Final kick off time, tradition can be overlooked at the behest of UEFA, SKY or the FA when it suits.
Most leagues in Europe of course don’t play over the Christmas period with many taking it as an opportunity to take a winter break. After spending most of his footballing life with that break you can understand the Liverpool boss not being used to the fixture pile up in the UK. Given that his team are facing up to the prospect of 3 games in 7 days, Klopp perhaps has more reason than most to complain.
Every league in the UK plays extra games over the holiday season and as the Premier League gets the most television coverage it must suffer the most when it comes to fixtures being moved around the calendar.
A treat for the armchair fan no doubt but what about those attending games? Attendances don’t appear to dramatically suffer at this time which is remarkable considering the financial constraints that Christmas brings, not to mention the difficulties holiday traffic and reduced public transport can bring.
It’s clear to me that the festive fixture scheduling has gotten out of hand, there is no reason why the traditional Boxing Day/New Years’ Day games can’t remain on the yearly rotation, the FA and TV companies just need to arrange it better.
It seems wishful thinking though that TV companies will give up showing so many games just to keep the likes of Jurgen Klopp and his players happy but surely it would be keen to protect its ‘product’. The best teams, in fact all teams, simply cannot play all their best players in every game over that short period. Surely to maximise the quality of the product on offer those in charge of these TV companies would want the very best players on show?
The problem isn’t unique to England either. The Scottish league will take a two week winter break after the New Year fixtures this season. However, to facilitate this it appears the December calendar has become overcrowded. Aberdeen for example are scheduled to play a fifth of their entire league season in December. Playing so many games at this time of year just doesn’t make sense for a league which, in my opinion, should seriously consider a switch to summer football going forward.
So, Jurgen Klopp is not being the Grinch and isn’t saying we should forsake our festive footy altogether, quite the opposite in fact. The tradition of all games being on Boxing Day and New Years’ Day, without cramming in extra rounds of fixtures, would ease the calendar for all concerned.
It is the TV companies along with the FA who are pushing the fitness of players and the wallets of match going fans to the brink at this time of year. Klopp’s view should be supported by all to stop this madness and give the fans their real traditional festive football.
Do you agree with Klopp? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Asia Joanna