Football’s celebratory farce: the train strikes to heap more misery for the fans

Football fans are more frustrated than usual over the festive period, as a combination of train strikes and broadcast choices threaten their traditional Christmas day trips.

The announcement of the Christmas and New Year’s TV schedule, published 13 days late by the Premier League in October, was met with understandable outrage from fans.

Broadcasters – who wield huge sway over the calendar due to the millions they put into the game – have once again been forced to stage matches over three days rather than just Boxing Day, with matches in the Premier League and Championship, for example, due on December 26, 27 and 28. .

Football fans face travel chaos and ridiculous kick-off times over the festive period

Industrial measures are set to disrupt rail travel throughout the Christmas and New Year period

Industrial measures are set to disrupt rail travel throughout the Christmas and New Year period

Chaotic train strikes

December 26th – no service. Advice: don’t travel

December 27th – The RMT strike ends at 6 am. Trains start later than usual. Northern Rail issues ‘do not travel’ warnings

December 28 and 29 – Strikes of three companies urged passengers not to travel.

January 3 and 4 (four PL matches) – strike days. Limited service. Tip: Only travel when absolutely necessary

Jan 5th (Chelsea v Manchester City) – ASLEF’s advice on a planned strike: Only travel if absolutely necessary

January 6 and 7 (Beginning of the third round of the FA Cup at the end of the week) – Strike days. Tip: Only travel when absolutely necessary

TV powerhouses made a similar move with their New Year’s Eve fixtures. Premier League matches will be held on January 1, 2, 3 and 4.

This decision has been heavily criticized by the Football Supporters Association and other fan groups – and with good reason. After all, it was bad enough before broadcasters threw ludicrous kick-off times — making it impossible for fans to attend certain matches by train — into the mix.

“Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve matches were once highlights of the football calendar and looked forward to being a decades-old tradition, but that has been ignored as the schedule has been torn up to suit broadcasters’ needs,” the FSA told Sportsmail.

“Leagues, clubs and broadcasters need to think more about the disruption they have caused to match fans who will be following their teams across the country this Christmas.”

On December 27, Manchester United host Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford at 8pm. The last train back to Nottingham leaves about half an hour after the match has finished, which is not enough time to get from the stadium to the station.

Elsewhere, Leicester travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on January 30. The last train from Liverpool to Leicester leaves at the end of the first half of the match, which kicks off at 8pm.

These are just a few examples of the disruption fans face due to broadcasters and the Premier League.

But the misery of the already upset supporters was compounded by Widespread industrial strikes run across the rail network over Christmas and into 2023.

The final round of strikes from the RMT and its members was planned for 24 to 27 December, before the entire first week of January, which includes league matches across the pyramid and the FA Cup third round, was effectively wiped out by the strike.

Such is the level of disruption on trains that service providers including Northern Rail, the UK’s second largest operator, issued ‘no travel’ notices to passengers from December 24-27.

Fans face long journeys with limited travel option during the festive football schedule

Fans face long journeys with limited travel option during the festive football schedule

The limited service that normally runs on Boxing Day has been cancelled, and strikes on 27 December mean a later start of trains, which could affect fans heading to matches that day.

Three companies – CrossCountry, Great Western Railway and West Midlands Railway – are also scheduled to run on December 28 and 29.

Things get worse. Network Rail has issued advice to “only travel when absolutely necessary” during most of the first week of January, when there are many Premier League and Football League matches scheduled, as well as the third round of the FA Cup at the weekend.

The train strike is scheduled for most days around Christmas and into early 2023

The train strike is scheduled for most days around Christmas and into early 2023

Even if fans can take advantage of the limited service, there is never a guarantee that trains will run on certain routes.

In addition to the strikes, the RMT union—led by Mick ‘The Grinch’ Lynch—banned overtime between December 19 and January 2, which it estimates could result in up to 4,000 train cancellations per day. Trains will not run on certain lines at all for the entire fortnight.

Yes, there are travel options other than rail, but it has often been the fastest way to get to and from matches across divisions for fans of hardcore matches.

Clubs are expected to recruit additional coaches to help supporters attend matches between Christmas and the first part of the new year.

Strikes ordered by the RMT union, led by Mick Lynch (centre-right), caused chaos

Strikes ordered by the RMT union, led by Mick Lynch (centre-right), caused chaos

Fans across the country were already upset—to say the least—with the schedule released for the festive period.

Newcastle were given the Boxing Day visit to Leicester, a 370-mile round-trip for Jordy’s followers, while Arsenal and West Ham fans were left cursing the Premier League and broadcasters for choosing the Emirates game at 8pm. in the same day.

“It’s a joke, the Premier League and broadcasters are more interested in armchair fans than real fans,” said West Ham season card holder Tom Casserly.

“How do people get home at 10pm on Boxing Day?”

In the Championship, Blackburn go to Sunderland at 12:30 kick-off on December 26 – just a 300-mile round-trip for Rovers fans.

The Premier League and broadcasters have also been criticized for their festive fixture schedule

The Premier League and broadcasters have also been criticized for their festive fixture schedule

Tournament of Madness

Boxing Day

Sunderland – Blackburn (12:30pm) – 300 miles round trip for visiting fans

Middlesbrough v Wigan (3pm) – 250 miles round trip for visiting fans

Cardiff v QPR (5:15pm) 290 miles round trip for visiting fans.

December 27th

Reading – Swansea (5:15pm) – 290 miles one way for the fans.

Burnley – Birmingham (8pm) – 230 miles round trip for visiting fans.

It will be an early start for the 1,500 Rovers fans making the trek to the Stadium of Light, with buses scheduled to leave as early as 6:30am.

Blackburn has pledged to hire as many coaches as possible for its fans. “We will always have as many as needed to meet demand,” a company spokesperson said.

Boxing days away from the stadiums are a staple of Christmas for match fans, but fans of championship teams will face an average round trip of 210 miles on December 26 and 27.

It includes a 230-mile round-trip for the Birmingham Supporters at Burnley on December 27. With the game kicking off at 8 p.m., there are no trains home for Blues fans.

In the new year, Arsenal’s game at home to Newcastle will be on Tuesday 3 January at 8pm – leaving fans with the daunting task of returning to the North East later that night when transfer options are very limited at best. because of the strike.

On the same day, Bournemouth went to Manchester United at 8 pm and Brighton traveled to Everton, the match scheduled for 7:45 pm.

A Brighton spokesperson told Sportsmail: “Our travel partner Seagull Travel will monitor demand and will always respond to request where possible.” “We will direct our fans towards them as long as their services are available.”

He’s not much better in the tournament. Watford’s midweek trip to Swansea, and Hull’s visit south to Birmingham, are among the fixtures scheduled for December 29 and December 30, the round of fixtures after Boxing Day. Train travel is, unsurprisingly, impossible for both.

On January 2, Sheffield United play QPR in west London at 8pm, giving fans nowhere near as good as not getting home by rail or other public transport.

This is a familiar story for those who follow their team home and away. It’s high time the authorities, including broadcasters and the Premier League, considered a lifeline for the game – for once.

Celebration matches in the English Premier League

3 p.m. unless otherwise stated

Monday, December 26th

12:30 Brentford – Tottenham (Prime Video)

Crystal Palace – Fulham (Prime Video)

Everton – Wolverhampton (Prime Video)

Leicester – Newcastle (Prime Video)

Southampton – Brighton (Prime Video).

17:30 Aston Villa – Liverpool (Prime Video)

20:00 Arsenal – West Ham (Prime Video)

Tuesday 27 December

17:30 Chelsea – Bournemouth (Prime Video)

18:00 Manchester United – Nottingham Forest (Prime Video)

Wed 28 Dec

20:00 Leeds – Man City (Prime Video)

Friday 30th December

19:45 West Ham x Brentford

20:00 Liverpool – Leicester (Sky Sports)

Saturday 31st December

12:30 Wolverhampton – Manchester United (BT Sport)

Bournemouth / Crystal Palace

Fulham x Southampton

Manchester City x Everton

Newcastle – Leeds

17:30 Brighton – Arsenal (Sky Sports)

Sunday 1 January

14:00 Tottenham – Aston Villa (Sky Sports)

16:30 Nottingham Forest – Chelsea (Sky Sports)

Monday, January 2nd

17:30 Brentford – Liverpool (Sky Sports)

Tuesday, January 3

19:45 Everton x Brighton

19:45 Leicester – Fulham

20:00 Arsenal – Newcastle (Sky Sports)

20:00 Manchester United x Bournemouth

Wednesday, January 4th

19:30 Southampton – Nottingham Forest

19:45 Leeds vs West Ham

20:00 Aston Villa / Wolverhampton

20:00 Crystal Palace – Tottenham (Sky Sports)

Thursday, January 5th

20:00 Chelsea – Manchester City (Sky Sports)


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