From December 22nd until January 4th, there were three days without a Premier League match taking place. A total of 40 top tier matches took place in that 14-day period: that’s one Premier League fixture every eight hours for two weeks.
Oh, and by the way, the 48 hours following that period featured high-profile FA Cup matches involving Premier League teams.
It’s all a bit overwhelming.
No-one was forced to watch all these games, but if you’re a football supporter, it’s natural that you want to keep track of things. Yet with a PL game beamed live into the collective fan-brain almost every single day, and matchweeks spread seemingly at random across three or four-day periods, it was an impossible task.
By way of example: two days after Palace v Arsenal, the final match of Round 20 on the 28th of December, we were already into round 21 on the 30th, with the Eagles and the Gunners back in action on the 31st. Round 22 then began on New Year’s Day and finished up on the 3rd – but there was still the matter of the final game of Round 21, Spurs v West Ham, on the 4th.
Then, the day after that, we were served up a Friday night Merseyside Derby in the FA Cup, followed of course by the normal mayhem of a Third Round weekend. Which keeps going until the 8th.
What kind of madman thought this was a good idea?
Well, presumably the BT and Sky madmen who shelled out billions and are now in a position to demand that the Premier League exist in a state of near-perpetual motion.
For better or worse, the league sold its soul to TV a long time ago, but this season the money-men appear to have really got the bang they wanted for their buck. They’ve well and truly carved it up this time around – you get the impression they’d strap you down and funnel hot, steaming Premier League down your gullet if given half a chance.
And from their point of view, that’s basically fair enough – they’ve paid extremely generously for the right to do so.
Managers have a moan about the Christmas fixture congestion but what about the impact on the fan, the grass root tv watcher?
I’ll admit it, I need a night off, I’ve watched too much football.
My body needs a bit of DIY SOS and a brief cry at the end.
Just pushing through though.
— Mike Pierce (@mikepiercewidni) January 4, 2018
In theory, the prospect of hour after hour of football on our screens over the festive period is a tempting one. But in reality, it has all just become a bit too much. Our eyes, it seems, are far bigger than are stomachs.
Remember that Monthy Python skit with the ‘wafer-thin’ mints and the big lad exploding thanks to the insistence of his waiter? Well, this is worse. It’s like having a few kilos of deep-fried Mars bars dumped in front of you after a five-course banquet and then having a man come over and tell you how great the deep-fried Mars Bars taste and you’ll miss out if you don’t gulp down a few of them.
It’s easy to say, ‘well, just don’t eat the deep-fried Mars Bar watch the stupid match’. But, frankly, there’s no escape. People love football, and feel compelled to watch – or at least check the score – even if doing so exhausts them.
That’s why BT and Sky put their hands so deep into their pockets for the Premier League rights. And that’s why, worryingly, it’s hard to see this trend for constant coverage ending before the telly-bubble eventually bursts.
As many are so quick to point out, the festive period is one of the jewels in the PL crown, so it needs to be preserved. That’s a given. But maybe let’s not overdo it?
After all, there can’t be too many people who’ve had the energy to sit down and consume everything they’ve been offered? Just play all the respective matchweek’s games in one, or maximum two, days. Not stretched out over nearly a week – that’s just confusing. There’s plenty to go around even if it’s just eight or nine days, rather than 11, out of 14 with matches scheduled.
And let’s not even get started on how it affects players, managers or travelling supporters trying to follow their team live…