It seems that hardly a week goes by when managers are not bemoaning the fixture schedule their teams face and calling for change particularly in the weeks that they are playing away in Europe where the travelling involved can often cause increased levels of player fatigue. I must admit that I never quite understand why those teams playing away in Europe are often selected for the early Saturday kick offs. Surely the clubs affected can be accommodated.
If you look at the upcoming Christmas and New Year period, then there is clearly going to be a significant disparity between teams. Some will play two games in 48 hours and some won’t. Which takes away the level playing field that applied in years gone by before the clubs acceded to the ever-increasing number of TV rights packages on offer to increase their broadcasting revenues. Clubs cannot have it both ways. You can’t vote for more money and then moan that the fixture schedule is unbalanced and unfair.
It makes me wonder how the current crop of managers and players would have coped in years gone by. In my first season of watching Charlton Athletic in 1960, the club hosted Plymouth Argyle on Boxing Day and won 6-4 and then travelled to Plymouth 24 hours later and lost 6-4. It was a feature of fixture programming in the 1960s that you played the same team twice over the Christmas period and as the example above demonstrates geography played no part.
Interestingly Charlton Athletic play Plymouth Argyle at home this coming Boxing Day. In one of my all-time favourite seasons in 1968-69 Charlton played Cardiff City on Good Friday and won 4-1 at home and 24 hours later beat Middlesbrough at home 2-0 and 48 hours after that drew 0-0 at Birmingham City. Nobody moaned because the Christmas, New Year and Easter fixtures drew bigger attendances and were very popular with fans. That legacy has carried on in the game and if we were not in a Pandemic there would be bigger than normal attendances at all of levels of football this Christmas and New Year. Foreign managers often can’t understand it, but it is an integral part of the fabric of our national game.
Call me old fashioned but I hope we never lose the Christmas and New Year programme. It can influence the season for your team both positively if you do well and negatively if you don’t, but it is part of our football DNA in this country.
Finally keep an eye out over Christmas for an interview on Gillette Soccer Saturday with Integral Sports Management’s co-founder, Ray Winstone. In recent months, we have signed some of the most exciting young players in the country and I have no doubt some will go on to play at the highest level of the game.
A happy and a safe Christmas and New Year to all.
Peter Varney – Chairman, Integral Sports Management
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: Pool via REUTERS