Football supporters know all too well the impact that changes to the fixture schedule can have. Plans are rearranged and often expense incurred when a match is moved to accommodate cup football or TV scheduling. We have very little, if any, say, despite being the most put on stakeholders in the game.
Representatives from the Premier League Fans Group have recently started to meet with Sky Sports and BT Sport to put forward supporter views on such changes, and to look at ways we can mitigate this impact.
However the news that has broken this week that Sky plan to fill their ‘Super Sunday’ TV slots as usual, despite it falling on Christmas Eve, is hugely disappointing and frustrating for supporters. The discussion has been dominated by the likelihood of an Arsenal v Liverpool fixture on 24 December, but choices have not yet been finalised and any club is still available to be chosen for a televised game.
This is wrong and no fixtures should be scheduled for this day. Supporters will be faced with the unenviable task of deciding between family, friends and loved ones and any pre-existing plans for this time of year and continuing their loyalty and support for their club.
Club staff would also face similar difficulties. Public transport shuts down early on Christmas Eve and travel may be at a greater expense. Made to work, their plans and priorities will challenged in pursuit of a TV programme. These staff aren’t the well paid millionaires, but the catering, hospitality, stewarding and security personnel required to fulfil a fixture. This extends further to police, local authorities and others who will have to work to facilitate such a change.
None of these people, like supporters, shares in the Premier League riches or has Premier League lifestyles and wages. If this happens, it would be more take, with little given back.
This must not be allowed to happen, not this season and not in future seasons. We are more than willing to work with the broadcasters and the Premier League to avoid such pitfalls for the benefit of all. We don’t want this to be the ghost of Christmas future.
Now though, the decision makers must show this is indeed the season of goodwill. Sky, the Premier League and clubs have to recognise that yes there is a TV slot available, but football on Christmas Eve is unacceptable and a step too far.
Supporters should be included in any decision-making process when such drastic changes are to be made. This is not something we are taking lightly. We have already successfully campaigned for cheaper away tickets and will continue our work to ensure match-going fans are treated as fairly as possible.