Premier League decides against Arsenal-Liverpool Xmas Eve fixture
The Premier League has abandoned plans to schedule Arsenal's clash with Liverpool for Christmas Eve after a backlash from supporters.
Reports that the game could be moved to 4 p.m. GMT on Dec. 24 sparked fierce opposition from fans and concerns from both clubs, due partly to a lack of available trains to take Liverpool supporters back north after the match and fears that Arsenal would struggle to find enough stewards willing to work.
The match has instead been moved to the 7:45 p.m. GMT Friday night slot on Dec. 22 in the latest tranche of broadcast dates announced by the Premier League.
Sky Sports and BT Sport were both reportedly eager to televise at least one match on Christmas Eve, but the Premier League is reported to have intervened to keep the date free of top-flight football altogether.
A Premier League statement read: "There will be no Premier League fixtures on Sunday, Dec. 24. Four matches have been selected for live UK coverage that weekend, with three to be televised on Saturday, Dec. 23."
Leicester City's match against Manchester United, another festive fixture that was reportedly in the running to be scheduled for Christmas Eve, will instead kick off at 7:45 p.m. GMT on Saturday Dec. 23, while Chelsea's trip to Goodison Park to take on Everton will be shown on Dec. 23 at 12:30 p.m. GMT. Burnley welcome Tottenham to Turf Moor at 5:30 p.m. GMT on the same day, with the remaining six Premier League fixtures that weekend scheduled for 3 p.m. GMT.
The Premier League matches selected for broadcast by Sky Sports and BT Sport announced on Thursday were for the period from Dec. 2 to 28, covering six rounds of matches. Twenty-four fixtures were selected for live coverage in the UK.
The Premier League insisted supporters' feelings on festive fixtures were taken into account to reduce travel times for traditional Boxing Day and New Year's Day games.
Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore said: "We appreciate this is the peak time for supporters attending and watching the Premier League.
"With matches scheduled on Christmas weekend for the first time in 11 years, the process of selecting games for live broadcast has been a more complex one than usual and I would like to thank our broadcast partners and clubs for their cooperation and flexibility.
"When selecting matches, the broadcasters are using the rights that we the Premier League and the clubs have sold them, and they should therefore not be criticised for doing so."
Two matches were selected for live broadcast on Boxing Day: Tottenham vs. Southampton at 12:30 p.m. GMT and Liverpool vs. Swansea at 5:30 p.m. GMT. All other games that day kick off at 3 p.m. GMT, while Newcastle vs. Manchester City has been switched to 7:45 p.m. GMT on Dec. 27 and Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal to 8 p.m. GMT on Dec. 28.
The broadcast selections for the final round of December fixtures and the month of January will be announced "no later" than Oct. 27, the Premier League said.
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.
Follow Liam on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.