December 25, 2013 by bluenosebible
The festive fixtures are here and with that brings the seasonal debate of whether a winter break should be introduced in England.
As players from across Europe’s top leagues start to enjoy their winter breaks of at least two weeks, clubs in England will be preparing for the annual fixture congestion of four games in nine days leading into the New Year.
In mainland Europe, football fans find it strange that the English supporters almost adore this time of the season, even when they could be spending time with friends and family, but are they in some ways right?
On Christmas night Lee Clark and his side as well as all the other away sides in the Football League will be stuck in hotel rooms up and down the country rather than spending time with their loved ones.
Some fans might argue “They’re paid so much, why should they moan about working over Christmas?”, but when other countries have changed the rules to introduce a break, why wouldn’t they be annoyed with the FA, Premier League and Football League?
They should be watching their children play with their new toys and sitting with friends and older family members watching the classic Christmas shows on TV, not preparing for a must win relegation six-pointer or promotion battle.
Even for the supporters, fixtures over the festive period can cause havoc with their seasonal schedule.
The poor Swansea fan who wanted to watch their side cause an upset against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day, but can’t because of a nagging other half at home. Or a young Reading fan who is keen to see the Royals beat Middlesborough in Teeside on the 29th, but has long distance relatives visiting for the festive season.
It’s not only their time that is being affected, but also the cost of being a loyal supporter can make it difficult at this time with teams playing three home games in just ten days.
These fans, the ones with a real passion for the game, are being forced away from watching the sport they love because they either can’t commit the time and finances that come with Christmas.
Even in the later months of the season; having a busy end of December and start of January can make the viewing less value for money for the fans.
In February and March the risk was twice as likely, but for readers believing that this is because of a quicker and more aggressive style of play, the risk of injury in the first half of the season is very similar in each league.
As most supporters enjoy the festive fixtures, but I believe a winter break is needed, having a break shouldn’t be over Christmas.
The Boxing and New Years Day matches boost the attendances at football grounds all over the country so taking these away from lower league clubs could affect them considerably financially.
A break between the Third and Fourth Rounds of the FA Cup would be an ideal two/ three week window to put this, as well as removing replays from the competition (which I’ll be writing about in the FA Cup Third Round edition of the Made in Brum fanzine).
There may be more midweek fixtures to the season, but at least players will have longer to recover from the gruelling fortnight that we have all grown up loving in the English game.
Also, in the last few years, the Non-league fixtures on Boxing and New Years Day have been changed so teams are paired up and play their closest rivals home and away.
This works well for supporters as it keeps the travel to a minimum, meaning they can spend more time at home, and gives the fixtures even more of a flavour with it being part of an enjoyable time of the year.
With the current teams in the Championship, Blues would be paired with Leicester City, which is easy to travel to and a ground where to away side receives a good allocation of tickets.
For the clubs, the extra away support and buzz about the game would definitely boost the attendances (just like the game against Nottingham Forest!), but the fans are the ones who should be thought of first in all of this.
It’s important that a change is made, but with the fans at the heart of it as if it’s made without them, the governing bodies could make a lot of enemies.
By Oliver Osborn (The Bluenose Bible)