LONDON, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Christmas Eve will be free of Premier League football after broadcasters agreed not to schedule any games for that day.
Arsenal’s home clash with Liverpool had been earmarked for a potential switch from its original Saturday (Dec. 23) slot to the Sunday, prompting criticism from Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp and fans’ groups.
The match will now take place on Dec. 22 with the other nine games kicking off on Dec. 23, starting with Everton v Chelsea at 1230 GMT and finishing with Leicester City v Manchester United at 1945 GMT.
Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore said the timing of the Christmas holiday this year had made scheduling complicated.
“We appreciate this is the peak time for supporters attending and watching the Premier League,” he said in a statement.
“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.”
The Premier League is the only top European league with games over the Christmas period and it is a tradition deeply ingrained in British football.
Until 1958 matches were played on Christmas Day itself.
Scudamore defended both Sky Sports and BT Sport from criticism. The two broadcasters share the Premier League domestic rights package having paid a combined 5.14 billion pounds ($6.8 billion) over three years.
“Sky Sports and BT Sport do a fantastic job and their investment in our game has transformed football on and off the pitch at all levels,” he said.
“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.” ($1 = 0.7599 pounds) (Reporting by Martyn Herman)