Veteran manager Arsene Wenger has spoken out in defence of the Boxing Day fixture list, calling it a part of English tradition and rejecting outright the proposal to cancel them in favour of a festive break (via Arsenal.com). The Premier League continues throughout the Christmas and New Year period, while other countries have a break for the players, sometimes for several weeks. These fixtures tend to be heavily congested and have been blamed in the past for causing player fatigue, but Wenger believes that they should be allowed to continue.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was the one who brought up the idea; the Dutchman is a relative newcomer to English football and is not used to playing around the festive season. The much more seasoned Wenger however cautioned against cancelling the Boxing Day schedule, proposing a break scheduled for the New Year instead. Speaking to Arsenal Player, he said, “I had [Van Gaal’s] ideas when I arrived here but today I would cry if you changed that because it’s part of English tradition and English football.
“To suppress the game on Boxing Day… The whole of Europe comes to England to watch the game. It’s a very important part of us being popular in the world, that nobody works at Christmas and everybody watches the Premier League.
“I want to go on with it, yes. I always pleaded for a break after January 1, but we have to keep this tradition alive.”
The Frenchman certainly has a point; with no other League scheduling games during the holidays people naturally tune in to the Premier League and boost viewership numbers significantly. However, one also needs to think of the players; this year for example Arsenal have games on both the 26th and 28th, in addition to further games in the New Year. A few days break, whether before or after the festive period, sounds like a good idea for all parties involved.