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”) was announced on June 14, but as I explain in this post, it is 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 are October 12 for the Premier League and November 3 for the Championship. On or about those dates, 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. Right now the schedule shows every team in every professional league playing four games in a 10-day span from Saturday, December 23 to Monday, January 1. Again, some of those will change for TV, but here’s the lineup.
- 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
Starting on Saturday, January 6, 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.
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 around the 4th of 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 on the 23rd and 26th.
- If you want to spend Christmas at home, then arriving for Boxing Day games it s big ask; look at the games of December 30 and January 1.
- For a more soccer-focused trip (as opposed to one dependent on school schedules, for example) go from December 29 to January 8 and hit that FA Cup weekend. That is my favorite play.
- Don’t forget:
- The Premier League schedule will be official around October 12.
- The Championship schedule will be official around November 3.
- The FA Cup fixtures are out around December 4
- I can help you sort through all of this for as little as $50!