Christmas to be moved to accommodate world cup


By Tony Attwood

I must confess at once that I didn’t write that headline – although I wish I had.  It came from News biscuit – a wonderful satirical site, and one I’d recommend to anyone with an off centre sense of humour.

The point of their piece is that

Representatives of Europe’s biggest Christian groups had said that they were against a winter World Cup on the grounds that it would overshadow the build up to the annual festival, popular for about the last 2000 years, but FIFA President Sepp Blatter argued ‘Compromises will need to be made. There’s no reason why a religious festival celebrated by millions around the world shouldn’t be moved.’

Christian leaders travelled to Switzerland to explain why they believed it would be sacrilegious to change the symbolic birthday of the son of God. But after a meeting at FIFA’s headquarters, they emerged looking mollified, reassured and wearing gold Rolex watches. ‘There is no reason why we can’t be flexible about the date of Christmas’ said Pope Benedict, as he climbed into his new Rolls Royce with Qatari number plates. His holiness explained that he would continue discussions with two ‘FIFA consultants’ in the back of his new car, one blonde, the other a brunette.

Ho ho.  It appeals to my sense of humour anyway.

And that view is probably closer to the actual reality of football at the moment than what the children are writing in their daily papers at the moment.  Here’s our old chums the Daily Telegraph on 27 February.  (That’s yesterday unless you are in Australia in which it is the day before).

  • Arsenal news: Jack Wilshere suffers fresh injury setback

    Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has undergone ankle surgery, manager Arsene Wenger has revealed, in new injury blow.

The implication of that, if you had not heard any other news, was that Jack was out for another long spell. “Ankle surgery” and “injury blow” convey that message without actually saying it.

The Independent got a bit closer to the truth…

  • Jack Wilshere injury: Arsenal midfielder will have more surgery on ankle and is set to miss next three games

But really we needed to read what Arsene Wenger actually said to understand what has been going on…

Jack Wilshere had a little surgery to take his two buttons off his ankle because they were irritating him but it’s a very minor procedure. He’ll be out for a few days.  It was irritating his ankle and they had to take it off.

When asked if this was another “setback” for Jack he said…

No, it was planned to be done at the end of the season. But because he had an irritation with it, we decided to do it now.  It’s a few days.

And on when he will be back…

Next weekend will be a bit quick. I don’t know exactly. It’s days, not weeks.

So an injury that the manager has spoken about being “days not weeks” and which repeated the phrase “it’s a few days” three times, becomes

“Jack Wilshere suffers fresh injury setback.   Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has undergone ankle surgery, manager Arsene Wenger has revealed, in new injury blow.”

Children, children, you really must try and stop telling fibs like this.

But let’s get back to Christmas.   There are now stories that the Premier League is contemplating legal action against Fifa because it could interfere with the traditional English Christmas fixture list.

So how traditional is our Christmas football?

The league fixtures for 1889/90 (the second football season – I don’t have fixtures for the first season) show fixtures played on Saturday 22 December, Wednesday 26 December and Saturday 29 December.  By 1893 when Woolwich Arsenal joined the league the clubs were playing on 25 and 26 December.   By 1902 we have Arsenal fixtures on December 21, 25, 26 and 28, and that is roughly how it has continued.

Not quite as long a tradition as 2015 years of Christmas, but still 113 years of tradition and not to be tinkered with, without some thought.

So the Premier League has stated that it is concerned about “one of the English game’s great traditions and attractions, with the removal of the entire Premier League, Football League and FA Cup Christmas and New Year fixture programme that season,”

Moving the proposed final back a week or two before Christmas (rather than the originally stated 23 December date) helps fractionally, but still it would seem difficult to get players who appear in the final or 3rd/4th playoff, back from the winter heat of Qatar to playing in the winter freeze of England and ready to play in a matter of days.

The suggestion in the press is that more than 50 leagues will have to be re-organised which means they will either have to carry on without players (as they already do for the Africa Cup of Nations) or they will have to suspend the league.

Certainly the broadcasters who pay for the league fixtures will want to know and will take that into account.   If the league is suspended for a month, that would mean it continuing into June the following year, then leaving a shorter than normal summer break.  But Fifa will want all its normal international fixtures played – and they normally start in September making it ludicrous to hold back the start of the Premier League by a couple of weeks.   Unless the players decided to take a stand.  Now that would force through some changes.

So we have a usual cock up.  Plans made but not thought through.  When have we ever heard that before?

The problem we have is that the leagues and the clubs have consistently bowed down to the whims of Fifa, and have never had the nerve to stand up to them.  I rather suspect the Premier League will do this again – but it would be good, to my eyes at least, if they stood up just once, now.

The books



11 Replies to “Christmas to be moved to accommodate world cup”

  1. I suspect that eventually the Qatar WC will hold but that FAs will join the band wagon grudgingly. Its going to be an interesting drama and we can only sit back and watch it unfold.

  2. Yesterday Bladder said the final would be on the 18th, which is something I assumed here.

    As you mentioned, starting up straight away on the 26th is problematic (not enough rest for nationals of team making throug the latter stages). I was guessing Jan 15 for a restart. The league also needs to shutdown well before the world cup, to allow for training by the national teams. What of international’s breaks at the beginning of the season?

    Anyway, no sense repeating everything. My comment is a bit longer than this note.

  3. It’s not up to the Premier League to make a stand or take any action at all against FIFA. It would be almost impossible anyway with all our teams chock full of players from all over the world who may want to play for their countries.
    This is something that has to be done by the FA, with the support of the Premier and Football leagues.
    There’s also the issue of players returning from the tournament being entitled to four weeks holiday.

  4. Something being overlooked is the increasing likelihood of the 2018 WC being further compromised by local conflicts, sanctions against Russia and the start of a new cold war.

  5. It is definately going to muck up the PL for that season anyway. This type of change does not really bode well, it’s too much all at once, and there are bound to be lots of non-planning, therefore lots of muck ups.
    But no doubt the PL could make a killing here if they refused to re-organise and hold them to ransom? Or is that where the new PL money is going to come from? Any re-organising done will impact the next PL season.

    The most sensible option seems to be to reduce the number of games that PL season by the number of games usually played during the time needed to accommodate the WC games.

    But will it be seen as the sensible option? I doubt it very much.

  6. My first guess, is that the season had to start about 2 weeks earlier, break for 13 weeks, and probably run about 2 weeks later. And in much of that time, play 2 games per week. And cancel the EPL having a League Cup, or EPL teams playing in the FA Cup. Or have a break for international games outside of the world cup. And needing more players on each team to make up for having 2 games per week, instead of 1.

    That’s an awful lot of change, for no compensation. They could play a 19 game season. I am sure the TV rights holders would love that.

  7. Hopefully, a lot of good may emerge, football-wise, before the disgraced WC in Qatar in 2022.
    Crooked Blatter will have been ousted and will no doubt take with him some of the most corrupt of men.
    FIFA will also on the way out. Outraged nations will at last break free and a new era of integrity will begin.
    All we need to do then is to call Riley to answer charges and then create a new PGMO body.

  8. Here is a suggestion. Cancel all international friendlies for the year prior, year of and year after the WC 2022. That might save a few weeks.

  9. Sure, that ought to do it GoingGoingGooner. 🙂

    This has been a rotten week. Arsenal lose in CL, and yesterday Leonard Nimoy dies. I put a blurb on TheRegister about Vulcan, AB and the next reply followed up the link to the town website. He was surprised Vulcan had a Starfleet emblem on its website. I never went inside the museum at Vulcan, but I thought it looked cute.

    I think Scudamore is completely out to lunch. There is no way to have an ordinary festive break schedule. Sure, England may be out of things again after the round robin, but not all of the players that will be missing for the World Cup play for England.

  10. @GGGooner,
    What about stopping all international friendlies, period.
    They disrupt the EPL, cause injuries to players and generally upset the clubs who pay the wages, by insisting on their players reporting for duty or medicals.

  11. I wish the best for the Gunners on Sunday. But, in case Will decides he needs to bitch a time or ten, I better get my good wishes in early.


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