Chelsea supporters have vented their anger at the Premier League and Sky Sports by staging demonstrations outside of their headquarters as thousands of fans prepare to make convoluted journeys to the Midlands for their club’s Christmas Eve fixture against Wolves.
Members of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust [CST] held up banners saying “Christmas Eve football can get stuffed” in front of the Premier League’s offices in Paddington and Sky’s site in Osterley, west London, in their latest show of defiance against broadcasting schedules.
The game will kick-off at 1pm on Christmas Eve and will be the first time that a Premier League fixture has been played on that date in 28 years. The Premier League has confirmed that no matches will be played on 24 December next year, which falls on a Tuesday.
Chelsea have offered to provide complimentary coach travel from west London, a goodwill gesture that Dom Rosso from CST says has “been very well received and been taken up by a lot of supporters”.
However, others travelling from other parts of the country face extreme logistical challenges to make the game, with significant disruption expected on the national rail network due to staff shortages and Storm Pia. The timing of the game has led to some loyal supporters giving up their tickets.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of Chelsea fans who will be going, some haven’t missed a game for over 30 years, and they will be struggling [to get there],” Rosso tells i.
“There are lots of fans having to make weird journeys. I know one who is having to take a minibus into London, then a train up to Birmingham city centre and then they’ll have to get on a coach and do the reverse journey.
“That’s the only way they can get back otherwise they’ll be spending their Christmas Day in Wolverhampton, which I’m sure is great but not if you have family down on the south coast.”
He added: “We’ve had members who have said that they are on the away scheme and go to every single fixture. For a lot of people Chelsea is a huge part of their lives so they are really split on whether to stay at home or go to the game.
“It has placed another hurdle in the way of matchgoing supporters which is not what we want at a time when people should be able to spend time with family and friends. It is really inconvenient for a lot of supporters.”
After the Premier League had announced the date for the game at the end of October, Wolves and Chelsea fans accused the league of treating matchgoing fans with “total disrespect”, while the Football Supporters’ Association [FSA] described it as a “huge kick in the teeth”.
Despite significant pushback, the Premier League did not budge on the scheduling.
A CST statement read: “We have held this demonstration to remind the Premier League and its broadcasters that without matchgoing supporters, football is nothing – Christmas Eve football can get stuffed!
“The Premier League CEO, Richard Masters, must ensure his words on supporter engagement are not hollow and must guarantee that there is meaningful dialogue and consultation with supporters on key issues relating to our clubs.
“Our message is clear – stop treating matchgoing supporters with total disrespect or risk stadiums becoming lifeless, soulless, and without passion.”
The statement added: “Decisions like this make a mockery of CEO Richard Masters’ own words when he launched the league’s ‘Fan Engagement Standard’, where he said: “It is vital we ensure the voices of supporters are not only heard in the stands but also when it comes to having a say on key issues relating to their clubs.””
Debates around how match-attending fans are treated have spiked again this week after the European Court of Justice’s ruled that Uefa and Fifa had acted unlawfully in blocking the formation of a European Super League [ESL]. The ESL was swiftly disbanded in April 2021 after fans of the “Big Six” Premier League clubs involved mobilised against it.
Leader of the opposition Keir Starmer tweeted on Friday: “For too long, football fans have been treated as an afterthought. If I’m Prime Minister, I’ll make sure the European Super League doesn’t happen. It’s time to start putting fans first.”