Written by Andrew Thomson
Edited by Genevieve Gordon
Personal Stability & Wellbeing Department
The Festive Season
Now that the Christmas and New Year festivities seem a distant memory, most of us have hauled ourselves back to work, stopped over-indulging on food and drink and tried to pick up on where we left things way back at the end of 2016. As a nation, we love watching sport over the Christmas period, but do we ever spare a thought for those taking part during the one time of the year that we all long to be with our families and loved ones?
In my sport, football, any mention of this is usually rebuffed with the response of “well they earn enough money don’t they, working over Christmas is a small price to pay!”
Now, I can sympathise with this view to an extent when we talk of the top players in this country. The salaries they earn are certainly large enough that any sacrifices they must make along the way seem justified to the outside world. However, when you consider that a large percentage of these players will spend vast amounts of time away from family during the rest of the year, is it so unreasonable for them to want to spend time with family over Christmas?
The vast majority of players in this country do not earn huge salaries, and as someone who spent sixteen years not being able to celebrate Christmas, leaving your family on Christmas Day to go into training and then spend the night in a hotel really isn’t much fun!
Also, bear in mind that the players make up only a small proportion of what it takes to host a football match or any other sporting event. Consideration perhaps should also be given to coaching staff, medical staff, kit men, laundry staff, grounds men and grounds staff, stewards, police, catering staff; the list goes on and on and these people have their festivities punctuated by the Christmas sporting calendar.
It’s not just football either. Although England were not involved, there was lots of cricket played around the world over Christmas, Australia were playing Pakistan on Boxing Day, New Zealand played Bangladesh and South Africa hosted Sri Lanka. In a sport where there have been many high-profile cases of depression and mental illness amongst top players, should we expect players to spend such long periods away from home and family, especially at such a special and significant time of year?
There was a full Rugby Union programme of fixtures over Christmas, tennis even had an exhibition tournament which began on December 29th and the Brisbane International (where the world’s top players all compete) began on New Year’s Day.
The World Darts Championship took place at Alexandra Palace. At this tournament, they begin before Christmas, have three days off and then resume play on the 27th December before the final takes place on the 2nd January. The tournament is also a firm favorite with many spectators that form part of their traditional Christmas outings so remains financially beneficial to the sport.
There was also a large horse racing programme over the festive period, spare a thought for the 6,000 or so stable staff that were working on Christmas Day, far away from the glamour and bright lights of competitive sport to ensure the horses were all well looked after and ready to compete. The 32Red King George VI chaser at Kempton, this year, as every year, is one high profile example of racing staff focusing on their job. Thistlecrack won his outing making it worthwhile for his stable at least. Mind you the losing favorite, Cue Card, came from the same stable!
I understand that there are sacrifices to be made if you pursue a career connected to professional sport but is it fair to expect this amount of sacrifice at this most precious time of year for families purely to satisfy our lust for watching sport, couldn’t we all just watch a movie instead?