NEIL Harris is a fan of football at Christmas – but wants to see cleverer scheduling of local derbies to reduce the number of games over the period.
Millwall, with one of the smallest first-team squads in the Championship, play four times from December 23 to January 1.
Harris acknowledges the issue is complicated by the fact that festive fixtures boost clubs’ finances with higher gates, but believes extra revenue can be generated if derby games are scheduled to give more fans the chance to attend.
There are four weeks from November 25 to December 23, for instance, when Millwall play just four games.
Harris admits he is a “traditionalist” but would like to see the FA put more time into scheduling.
“There are two ways of looking at it,” Harris said. “I love the Christmas period. But should the players and the whole industry have a break at Christmas and spend time with their families? Probably. Everyone should probably be off at Christmas.
“But I’m a traditionalist, I love the Boxing Day fixtures and the New Years’ Day fixtures, it’s a brilliant time to play football. I’m also a football fan. I get the whole going down to the stadium to watch a game on Boxing Day with your brother or sister, your mum, your nan and your kids. What a great day out and that’s why you get the biggest attendances on those days.
“My only concern has been and is, certainly now as a manager, we have all season to play all these games, we have four international breaks when everyone gets two weeks off and then we end up playing four games in eleven days over Christmas. Why do we do it? That’s what I don’t understand. I think that’s something that’s got to change and the only people who can change it are the FA.
“But they are dictated to by TV and clubs saying it’s their biggest gate of the season, if they don’t get an extra 3,000 on that day then they’re going to struggle. Well, rearrange the fixtures. Play local derbies at better times. They could be arranged so much better. Play them at times when more people can get to them. We just need to be more switched on with things.
“Play at Christmas, yes, but don’t play as many fixtures, would be my advice.”
Image: Millwall FC