Exclusive: Manchester United and Leicester City under pressure to play on Christmas Eve

Sam Wallace
The Telegraph
Leicester City are currently due to host Manchester United on December 23 - Getty Images
Leicester City are currently due to host Manchester United on December 23 - Getty Images

Leicester City and Manchester United are the latest two clubs coming under pressure to play their Premier League match at the King Power Stadium scheduled for Dec 23 on the afternoon of the following day, Christmas Eve.

There has already been controversy around the plans to schedule Arsenal’s home game against Liverpool at lunchtime on Christmas Eve with issues over the London club being able to hire the requisite number of stewards.

Telegraph Sport understands that United and Leicester are pushing back hard against the proposals by the broadcaster Sky Sports, supported by the Premier League, with the potential for the game to be played at 3pm or even one hour later, at the traditional Sunday set-piece televised game kick-off time of 4pm.

There is frustration at Sky Sports at being cast as the villains of the piece with the broadcaster, which paid £4.2 billion for its share of the domestic rights, under obligation to select games to play on the Sunday. Currently the Premier League schedule for that weekend, beginning Dec 23, has match-ups that pair geographically distant clubs, including West Ham and Newcastle; Southampton and Huddersfield Town; and Manchester City and Bournemouth.

Away fans making long journeys to watch their teams on the weekend before Christmas are likely to run into problems on public transport and motorway networks already under strain.  

Premier League fixtures 2017/18 club-by-club grid

As with Arsenal, it is envisaged that Leicester would have problems making sure they reach the requisite number of safety staff. There are also concerns about putting undue pressure on the emergency services at a time of the year when they are stretched. There have not been games scheduled on Christmas Eve since 1995.

Both Leicester and Manchester United’s supporters’ organisations are aware of the proposals and it is likely that they will not find favour among fans. The Arsenal supporters’ trust has opposed the Christmas Eve scheduling of the Liverpool game with a 99 per cent majority.

Under the terms of its deal, Sky would lose its ‘Super Sunday’ pick if it moves the game back to a Saturday. The broadcaster televises three games a weekend, one on a Saturday and two on a Sunday. BT Sport have one game on a Saturday, the 5.30pm kick-off.

As previously reported by Telegraph Sport, the same situation arose in 2000 and 2006 but at that time Sky Sports were the only domestic rights-holder and moved their picks to the Saturday. The situation will not again arise on a Sunday until 2023.

A Premier League spokesman said on Friday evening: “The process for selecting fixtures for live broadcast over the Christmas period is not complete. We will update fans as soon as we can.”

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