My girlfriend and I fell out a couple of times during the festive holidays because I was watching so much football. I know it led me to being less engaging and affectionate towards her but it’s taken until now for me to reflect on how festive football harms us all. Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal had some advice – have a UK football winter break like the rest of Europe. Van Gaal wasn’t issuing relationship advice to all us football nuts but trying to protect his players from fatigue and missing out on a family orientated time of year.
But it’s tradition. For decades we’ve had football matches every second day during the festive period. And this year it had an extra special dimension as we recognised the one hundredth anniversary of the Christmas truce.
But is it time for a change? Much has changed. Do we need a break or just less frequent matches? The rest of Europe take a two week winter break but then they don’t have as many teams, leagues, competitions and therefore have less games in a full season. Many of our clubs need frequent festive games to help generate cash to pay their staff. Other clubs experience dwindling attendances which leave them struggling to survive the winter.
These issues revolve around the cost of admittance. Queens Park attracted the division’s highest attendance of the season – over 2,000 turned up at Hampden for their match with Clyde on the 3rd of January. This was no doubt aided by admission price reductions and the additional incentive of getting to visit the Scottish Football Museum. So should all clubs be looking to reduce prices to attract more fans along? Some clubs can’t afford to but most can. Clubs complain they’ll have higher attendances but might not make as much money. And it’s unfair to season ticket holders. Surely more people in the stadium at cheaper prices is more likely to result in a rise in food and beverage purchases and sales in the club shop. Everyone wants a new club mug for going back to work. Many people cannot afford to go to 3 or 4 matches during the festive period when Christmas costs so much money these days.
With an increase in televised matches (much to my girlfriend’s frustration) many fans don’t see the incentive in actually attending a game in person. To make it worse – from the 2016-17 season there will be at least one televised football match from the English Premier League Friday to Monday with European matches Tuesday to Thursday. You simply won’t have to leave the house to watch football. Best not tell your other half quite yet!
I love the festive football calendar. Fortunately my club doesn’t play as frequently as others do, which in a sense results in me to watching more on TV.
I don’t want to see an end to the festive fixture list. I like the romance of watching football on a dark winter’s afternoon under the floodlights. This game isn’t particularly romantic anymore so the sooner clubs can put the family, the fun and the festive back into the occasion the more likely we’ll be singing carols from the terraces instead of arguing over the remote in the living room.