What happened to Easter football?

by   |   17/04/2017  14 Comments  [Jump to last]

Remember them playing games Saturday and Monday during the Easter weekend?

I could just leave the article at that and let the message boards do the rest.Seriously, though, since 2007 we’ve only played a double-header at Easter once (in 2012). Who OK’d this? Why haven’t more fans kicked off about this?

To me, the Easter weekend is as big a tradition as playing on Boxing Day. A pivotal moment in the title race and relegation scrap, a real test of everyone’s squad, an unmissable weekend. Can you imagine if they scrapped the Boxing Day matches to have a much mooted winter break? There’d be uproar, especially in the media. The scrapping of the Easter weekend football seems to have gone unnoticed though.

One of the reasons for this may be that they didn’t actually announce that it wouldn’t happen anymore – they just didn’t put Easter Monday in the fixture list anymore and hoped no-one would notice. And the worst part is, it’s worked.

The first year of this, in 2008, I think it clashed with an international friendly so we kind of let that one go, but in the years that followed, there was no reason for it not to happen. So why have they done this?

I think the biggest reason is Europe. Teams playing mid-week games before and after Easter couldn’t be expected to play two games during the long weekend. For that to happen, though, it would mean at least one English club has reached the quarter finals of a European competition, so surely that would be a “good problem” for the Premier League to have as it would maintain their co-efficient with UEFA? Also, it would likely only affect a couple of clubs, so here’s a simple solution – re-schedule their games and allow everyone else to enjoy the Easter double header.

It might also be a matter of consistency – they can’t have it every year due to international games if Easter falls in March. That’s fine – just have it when you can. We don’t always play on New Years Day, it depends on how the calendar falls, but we still play on New Years Day when the calendar allows.

It could be that managers have been complaining about fixture congestion – you’ve seen Klopp crying 2 years in a row about having to play twice in 3 days over the Christmas period. Van Gaal used to moan about it too. But, although I’m going back 10 years, I don’t remember any complaints about playing twice in 3 days at Easter back then.

So the only other factor could be TV. Sky and BT wouldn’t be able to squeeze anywhere near as many games out of the “rounds” or “match-days” or whatever they call them if everyone was playing two games in the same weekend. In fact, until recently, showing live games on Easter Sunday was almost unheard of. Now, they treat Easter like any other weekend, even down to the fact that the Arsenal-Middlesbrough game is kicking off this evening when it could easily be played and shown in the daytime.

Also, with all the TV money being pumped in, clubs aren’t as dependant on gate receipts and so the Bank Holiday gate boost that used to happen at Easter maybe isn’t needed any more.

Whatever the reason, next time you’re traipsing out in inhospitable conditions and having to book time off work for a mid-week game in January, and are then spending Easter Monday in the garden centre or DIY store, remember, it shouldn’t be like this.I might re-do this article at the start of next season. Find and replace “Easter Monday” with “mid-week games in August”.

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Reader Comments (14)

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Peter Mills
1 Posted 17/04/2017 at 20:39:54
David, you have just brought back fond memories of 3 matches I attended in 5 days, on Easter Saturday, Bank Holiday Monday, then 2 days later on the Wednesday.

Utter nonsense to expect professional footballers to play at that intensity - but we won them 5-2, 1-0 and 2-0 to clinch the Title in 1970!

Colin Glassar
2 Posted 17/04/2017 at 20:42:16
Arsenal winning.
Dean Barton
3 Posted 17/04/2017 at 22:12:13
Absolutely agree!

It was and could be again, a massive weekend. I understand why the clubs don't want it but considering Sky dictate who plays when it makes no sense. They could bill it as the "Big weekend". The viewing figures would be up with everyone off work etc. Huge advertising campaign and so on.

Plus, it gets me away from the wife who has an uncanny ability to plan my bank holidays for me.

Mark Boulle
4 Posted 17/04/2017 at 22:18:30
I agree completely with this article.

Also, sort of on a related note, I'm really hacked off with the Premier League for letting Man Utd and Arsenal fall three games behind us. It just feels like every win or decent result we get at the moment is effectively meaningless because our points total and position in the table are under such threat from teams we overtake having played significantly fewer games.

I know the obvious counter is that your final position is where you deserve to be and everyone plays the same number of games, but psychologically I really believe there was something to Spurs' title chase falling away last season because they always played on a different day and at a different time from Leicester.

Likewise this time, I just wish we'd all played 33 so that, as we approach the run-in, we knew where we truly stand in terms of European qualification.

Paul Burns
5 Posted 18/04/2017 at 08:00:50
I remember an Easter weekend in about 1977, beat Newcastle Utd away on the Friday (2-0?), Leeds Utd at home 2-0 the day after and Man Utd away 2-1 on Easter Monday.

Six points in four days, have some of that, big Bob on the rampage.

John Raftery
6 Posted 18/04/2017 at 10:17:13
Paul (#5), I was also thinking of that weekend but you are a year out. It was 1978 with big Bob on his way to 30 goals.
Phil Bellis
7 Posted 18/04/2017 at 13:03:32
My first away game, apart from Anfield, was at Blackpool, Easter 1963 (Dad to Mum: "let him go love, his mates are good lads and it's only up the road.")

I still have the Echo with the headline "Everton Bring Home Easter Present From Blackpool"

It was no doubt due to football catching up after the Big Freeze but just look at the fixtures Easter month, 1963...

Sat 30 Mar Sheff Utd (A)
Mon 01 Apr Aston Villa (A)
Sat 06 Apr Blackburn Rovers (H)
Mon 08 Apr Liverpool (A)
Sat 13 Apr Blackpool (A)
Mon 15 Apr Birmingham City (H)
Tue 16 Apr Birmingham City (A)
Sat 20 Apr Tottenham Hotspur (H)
Wed 24 Apr Arsenal (H)
Sat 27 Apr West Ham United (A)

Matt Traynor
8 Posted 18/04/2017 at 13:21:46
It's possible that we will lose the Boxing Day matches for seven seasons to accommodate a Winter World Cup in 2022.

In order to facilitate a break, the fixture list will have to be gradually "stretched" for 3 seasons prior, and 3 seasons post 2022-23, to have a 6 week tournament window in November/December 2022.

All part of broadening the appeal of the game, so we can't complain...

Jim Bennings
9 Posted 18/04/2017 at 14:48:15
While we are at it, what happened to the midweek home and midweek away games we used to have when the season started in August?

Instead we have to be subjected to pointless International friendlies and then have the freezing cold winters night midweek fixtures in December or February rather than August when everyone was fresh for the new season.

David Flint
10 Posted 18/04/2017 at 21:08:00
Yes Jim, check out the last 2 sentences of my article!

I know – especially if the first home game was mid-week – approaching the ground for the first time in 3 months, just as the floodlights coming on in that hazy August twilight. Great experience.

Only chance of that now is if our first home game's selected for Monday/Friday night by TV.

Peter Lee
11 Posted 18/04/2017 at 21:24:04
Remember them well Jim. Reducing the games from 42 to 38 made them unnecessary I think. Do miss them though. Going to a game at night and coming out with the floodlights on and a darkening blue sky was special.

I suspect that this reduction might have played a part in the double headers over Christmas and Easter disappearing.

Separately from that, I remember an evening derby game game on Good Friday arranged to suit Sky. Most people were rat-arsed and the atmosphere was evil. Played a big part in the ending of the "friendly derby" I reckon.

Jim Bennings
12 Posted 19/04/2017 at 07:53:39
Oh I remember that Good Friday Merseyside derby too Peter.

It was the Graham "I can't count 2 minutes on a wristwatch" Poll derby wasn't it?

Apparently ruling out Don Hutchison's perfectly good "back" goal after 1 minute 45 seconds and Poll bottling It big time and taking the easy option (of which to be fair he's since held his hand up and said the goal should have stood) .

But it annoyingly cost us a Merseyside derby "double" over that lot!

Tony Abrahams
13 Posted 19/04/2017 at 08:22:11
Different games, I think, Jim? But totally agree with you about Graham Poll that night.

My favourite Easter, was getting on an aeroplane after being away for a few days, to see a newspaper saying Everton had won 1-0 away to Villa, with about 15,000 Toffees watching Sheedy get the winner at Villa Park!

Interesting that, Matt, but I would sooner give the international teams, a six-week programme in which to play all their games every year, and that way they can stop interrupting the real football every few weeks!

Bill Watson
14 Posted 19/04/2017 at 15:48:58
What is the point of the international break in August, just as the season's starting?

(Mostly) foreign managers also complain about the lack of a winter break and this season Klopp, in particular, was bleating about it for weeks. I think it will eventually come about but which weeks would you choose? You could have fine weather during a winter break but blizzards either side of it.

I used to work in insurance and the debate reminds me of the farmer who insured his 200 cattle against being struck by lightening. On average he only lost one a year so told the insurance agent he couldn't see the point in insuring the 200 so he'd just pay for insuring the one. The agent agreed and asked, "Which one?"

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