The last time a Premier League match took place on Christmas Eve was back in 1995, but this year, the FA is discussing moving Liverpool’s clash against Arsenal at the Emirates from the 23rd to the 24th. The move is motivated by television rights, with Sky Sports reluctant to give up one of their three televised weekend games.
There has been major pushback by the clubs and both sets of supporters to this idea. The issues that arise from scheduling a game on Christmas Eve are obvious. Less supporters would be willing or able to attend on the day, leading to, in the words of an Arsenal Supporters’ Trust spokesman, “a record number of empty seats at The Emirates.”
The problem stems from familial and religious obligations, as well as the logistics of transportation. There will be limited options for how to get back from London to Liverpool following the game, but both Liverpool and Arsenal have fans that come from all over the world to see these two clubs play.
Another concern shared by the clubs is about their matches currently scheduled for Boxing Day, which have not been guaranteed to be delayed until December 27th. This could lead to the teams playing two games within three days. Even if the Boxing Day match gets moved, this solution will complicate Liverpool’s already ridiculously packed festive schedule. They play a third game on December 30th and a fourth on January 1st. While the difference is only 24 hours, when it’s a matter of four games played over either nine or 10 days, those 24 hours become very important for tired legs.
But The Telegraph has reported on another, more pressing problem facing this change of timing. According to the news outlet, Arsenal cannot yet guarantee that they’ll have enough stewards who will agree to work that day. This has caused safety concerns and may jeopardize their ability to receive the safety certificate from their local council necessary to hold the game.
Sky is expected to reveal their televised games for the festive period by October 16th, so we’ll know by then whether this change will go ahead.