If you are thinking of going to England to watch soccer games, chances are you’re having a look at the Christmas season.
That’s for good reason, I might add. There are a lot of games to see, Christmas is a fun time to be in London particularly, and — this may be the biggest reason for many folks — the kids are out of school.
But there are some things to consider when planning a “festive season” soccer trip to England, so I thought I would run through some of them here.
The schedules are going to change — a little
The Premier League schedule (or “fixtures list”) for 2019-20 will be announced on June 13, but as I explain in this post, it is then going to change. Most changes will be minor, like from Saturday at 3 to Saturday at Noon or 5 p.m. Some will be a little bigger, like from Saturday at 3 to Sunday, or even Monday. In the second-tier Championship, some games will go to Friday night or Sunday afternoon.
In all leagues, some games will move to a whole different weekend because of Cups, but that won’t affect the holiday season.
All of this happens on a fairly predictable schedule, because the TV networks are the main drivers of it. For the holiday season, the magic dates during the 2018-19 were October 12 for the Premier League and November 3 for the Championship. On or about those dates in 2019, the TV networks and the leagues will announce which games have been moved for broadcast.
Around 184 Games in 10 Days
You read that right. When the schedule first comes out, it shows every team in every professional league playing four games in a 10-day span from just before Christmas through January 1. Again, some of those will change for TV, but as an example, here’s the lineup from 2018-19:
- Saturday, December 23: 46 games in all leagues; that’s everybody. I seriously doubt any of these will move to the 24th — there haven’t been games played on Christmas Eve for at least 10 years — but this is TV we’re talking about. Stay tuned, as they say.
- Tuesday, December 26: 46 more games — everybody — once again. Boxing Day football in England is the rough equivalent of Thanksgiving Weekend football in the States — an integral part of the holiday. And yet, there will be minor changes. Last year, for example, Liverpool and Southampton saw their home games moved to the 27th and 28th, respectively. I assume the same will happen this year.
- Saturday, December 30: Everybody plays again, but I don’t see how they change any of these dates, because two days later …
- Monday, January 1: Everybody plays again! Some of these will certainly move, because (A) last year they went on until the 4th, and (B) Premier League teams won’t play again until the following Saturday. Speaking of which …
First Weekend of January: FA Cup Third Round … and Then Some
The first weekend in January, virtually every team in the Premier League will be entered into the FA Cup’s Third Round Proper (I love English names!). The FA Cup, if you don’t know, is a no-seeding, no-bracket tournament which, at each round, sees bigger clubs enter. And anybody could play anybody, anywhere.
For example, on this same weekend last year, we saw …
- Bournemouth of the Premier League play at League One Millwall
- Crystal Palace of the Premier League play at League One Bolton
- Arsenal of the Premier League play at Preston North End of the Championship
But we also saw some fairy-tale matchups for the small clubs at big stadiums:
- Reading at Manchester United
- Peterborough United at Chelsea
- Plymouth Argyle at Liverpool — where Plymouth got a 0-0 draw, meaning then Liverpool had to go for a replay there!
And, sometimes, out of the basket will pop some really fun and unexpected rivalry games like Burnley playing Blackburn Rovers. (Trust me: It’s intense).
Two points here: (1) these games are fun, and are often referred to as the Magic of the FA Cup. And (2) if you’re trying to get a ticket to a Premier League club, these games might be the way to go. I saw that Liverpool-Plymouth game, for example, by getting tickets the day-of on Liverpool Craigslist. Even better, I got to go in with a fan and stand with her on The Kop! The sight of those 9,000 Plymouth fans roaring and singing at the final whistle, well …. it’s why I go over there.
The FA Cup fixtures for that weekend will be all set when the draw is held in early December. Tickets will go on sale pretty soon after that.
Oh, and everybody in League One and League Two plays that Saturday, as well.
Some Final Thoughts on Christmas Season English Soccer Trips
Assuming you have about a week to travel …
- If you want to spend Christmas over there, look at games just before the holiday and, of course, on Boxing Day.
- If you want to spend Christmas at home, then arriving for Boxing Day games it’s a big ask; look instead at the games of the following weekend and January 1.
- For a more soccer-focused trip (as opposed to one dependent on school schedules, for example) skip Christmas and Boxing Day and instead focus on the following weekend through the FA Cup Third Round. That is my favorite play.
- Don’t forget:
- The Premier League schedule will be official around the second week of October.
- The Championship schedule will be official around early November.
- The FA Cup fixtures are out in early December.
- I can help you sort through all of this and make plans for as little as $75!