Christmas isn’t so very far away, but closer still is the announcement of the televised fixtures over the Christmas period. The possibility of playing games on Christmas Eve has been getting some people very annoyed indeed, so much so that even politicians are trying to score some popularity points over it.
It has been mooted that Arsenal might host Liverpool on Christmas Eve and that the Leicester – Manchester United fixture might be moved there too. There has been understandable outrage from fans – you try travelling anywhere on public transport or on the clogged motorways on Christmas Eve – and you can quite see their point.
But they are aiming their anger at the wrong target, at Sky TV for the most part and at the Premier League too. They should be pointing it towards their own clubs who were only too happy to sign up for the huge amounts of money on offer from TV rights without ever pausing to think what the consequence of handing their souls over might be. Certainly none were ever far sighted enough to ask if certain says could be taken out of the TV calendar, such as Christmas Eve.
Liverpool fans are justifiably horrified at the thought of travelling to and from London on December 24th, but ultimately it’s the doing of their own club, one of the prime movers behind the formation of the Premier League don’t forget. They have clearly forgotten the maxim that if you put your nose in the trough, you shouldn’t be surprised if you have to eat swill from time to time.
When any business such as Sky hands over huge sums of money, they are going to want their pound of flesh in return. Playing football at times inconvenient to supporters has become part and parcel of the game these last 25 years and I haven’t noticed any of the clubs try to help those fans by protesting about Monday night football for instance.
They are only protesting now because they feel they have to, but you can guarantee that they will fall into line with whatever Sky decides because Liverpool, Arsenal and their ilk have their eyes on a bigger prize – a heftier chunk of overseas rights which are currently shared equally. They are not going to rock a boat that might soon give them many millions more at the expense of Swansea City or Bournemouth and so they will accept the fixture change with a shrug of disappointment, and try to tell their fans that at least they tried.
But those fans should think about this. If they do get a bigger share of overseas rights, we then won’t be far away from those overseas broadcasters flexing their muscles too. Some of them might fancy the spectacle of Manchester City versus Chelsea on Christmas Day.
Others might prefer it if Spurs took on Manchester United at five in the morning or eleven at night to help boost their viewing figures in a radically different time zone.
When you take the money, you agree to dance to somebody else’s tune, so don’t let the clubs tell you they have supporters’ best interests at heart because in the end, it’s purely about generating the money. As Liverpool fans will notice on December 24 when they’re stuck on the M1 on the way home and a private jet containing the Liverpool board flies over their heads…