The Premier League clubs met Monday to discuss the festive period as COVID cases are mounting but opted to try playing all festive fixtures. There was a discussion about postponing game week 20 after the boxing day fixtures, but that never came to an official vote despite the fact that six matches were postponed over the weekend thanks to COVID protocols. There were also separate meetings scheduled for captains and head coaches planned to take place in the afternoon which were pushed back.
As the schedule becomes more disjointed, teams will have to get creative as Tottenham, Burnley, Brighton, Watford, Brentford, Leicester City, and Manchester United are now all two or more games off of the league pace.
There is also the issue of there being no consistent criteria behind what games are played versus which ones are postponed as Chelsea requested a postponement that was denied. Due to the denial, Thomas Tuchel opted to play a not fully fit N'Golo Kante possibly worsening his injury issues.
Then there are the various league partners that must be negotiated. Amazon has the rights to boxing day fixtures, which certainly contributes to why delaying those matches never seemed to be an option. Delaying those matches would have put those broadcasting fees in jeopardy and the tradition of England's boxing day slate of matches, an environment of so many games on one day can't be replicated. But, as we've seen throughout the pandemic something will have to give and while matches will continue to be rescheduled, the broadcasting rights tug of war will only get trickier to navigate.
Player safety wise, while it's understandable why the Premier League hasn't brought down a vaccine mandate, if there won't be clear postponements and plans on how games will be made up in a quick turnaround heading into a World Cup year, there will only be more issues moving forward. There are always mounting injuries during the festive period stretching teams to their limits, but this is a new and unexpected challenge, one that makes the already difficult part of the schedule even more unsure. That's before taking into account the the unknowns surrounding January's Africa Cup of Nations and the Club World Cup.
The show must go on but without clear steps moving forward, it could be closer to a sputter.