Football, Christmas, and New Years

Discussion in 'Prem talk, Those Other Leagues, and International' started by HatterDon, Dec 26, 2021.

  1. HatterDon

    HatterDon Moderator

    Mar 18, 2006
    Peoples Republic of South Texas
    Well, Boxing Day 2021 is history and, for those of us addicted to fitba, it’ll be remembered for producing the most Premier League goals in history. This is despite the fact that three fixtures were trashed due to COVID. Now, most of you have REAL lives, and you’re not nearly as elderly as me AND, you probably don’t have two degrees in history, so here’s some information about football and “the holidays” you might enjoy.

    When I first arrived in England in the summer of 1966, there were certain certainties about league football. There were 42 matches to a season for all four leagues [no premiership here] and, barring horrible winter weather, the first half of the season ended on or right after Boxing Day and renewed on New Years Eve. I believe that the second half was a mirror of the first, which meant that the side you wiped out on Boxing Day week would be the match you met NYE. Now there was a lot more cheapshotting in the game then, so that second match could be a doozie. Then as now, there were at least three full slates [and sometimes four] between December 24 and January 3.

    In those days there was little or no corporate sponsorship and so the majority of the income a club received came from ticket sales. In the 1960s, I paid less than what is now 50p for a rare seat and a program, so you can tell that there was a huge difference in the amount of money you’d receive if you owned say Luton Town Football Club instead of Liverpool. The very few rich clubs [Man U, Midlands, and London] continued to get the majority of the income. The amount of money required to field a competitive side each weekend in the next season depended on that money. There was no live television with the exception of the FA Cup final, no shirt sponsors, no shoe sponsors etc. For that reason, relegation from the old first division for a northern club like Burnley would make the following season’s prospects very bleak if not guarantee bankruptcy. Staying in the top flight was EVERYTHING.

    So, anyhow, here we are at the halfway mark of the 1966-67 season [Luton wasn’t in the top flight then]. By this point there, one could tell that there were fewer than a half-dozen clubs who could look at their standing and be confident of staying in the First Division. There were, however, usually as many as 10 clubs clustering about the fringes of potential relegation. These clubs hung on playing once a week and band-aiding their squads between matches. But with the potential damage of four league matches in the space of 8 or 10 days, it was generally considered that the race for the top was over and the scramble for staying at the bottom of the First was on. Each match forward would be a salvation/death situation.

    A could of quick things here. In those days the majority of league matches each week kicked off Saturday at 3. Those rare few that didn’t [and those whose frozen pitches meant the original match date was postponed] generally played on the home club’s “half day closing.” The majority of these midweek matches were on Wednesday. THERE WAS NO PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYED ON SUNDAY IN ENGLAND until much later.

    On the other hand, there wasn’t as much of a fixture cluster like we have now with all the European competitions and domestic cups. There was interest in the leagues and in the FA Cup. I don’t know when the League Cup began – I was probably not in England when it came about – but I do remember it being the FIRST competition that was considered a nuisance by supporters and owners.

    So, given that matches then were often played on frozen pitches, there wasn't any [or later one] substitute to take care of those “carrying a knock,” Christmas and New Years fixtures ended in either despair or relief for the majority of sides.

    It’s not as bad now as it once was economically, of course. Sponsorship and television have infused a lot of money, and English football clubs are attractive for foreign billionaires to own. The amount of money Manchester United makes selling shirts this season has to be more than they made in 1966-67 from gate receipts.

    So, there you go. Watch [if you can] the New Years matches, support Fulham in their fight to get back to the REAL money, but – as I heard many times in the 60s and 70s while living in England – “by gum lad, it were a tough old road we had to plow.”
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2021
    dtowndough, SoCalJoe, nevzter and 3 others like this.
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