Churches up in arms over Easter Sunday fixtures

A senior archbishop has attacked leading figures at the Premier League and Setanta Sports for holding football fixtures on Easter Sunday. The Most Rev Vincent Nichols – the next Archbishop of Westminster – has written a strongly-worded letter of complaint to Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and Setanta’s director of sport Trevor East. Alongside Anglican Bishop David Urquhart, the archbishop accused the Premier League of disregarding the importance of Easter Sunday by arranging two fixtures for Sunday afternoon. Aston Villa entertain Everton, while Fulham travel to Manchester City. Archbishop Nichols is himself a keen Liverpool supporter but stated: “Commercial considerations are not all that matters.”

He was backed by other church groups. “Easter Day is traditionally the Sunday with the highest church attendance in the year, and many of the local churches’ more elderly and infirm members make a special effort to come to church,” said the Bishop of Aston, representing Aston Churches Working Together.

He warned of the problems that would arise with church-goers being caught up with large numbers of football fans. “It is surely in no one’s interest for them to be caught up with large crowds of football supporters hurrying to arrive by kick off.”

Aston Villa’s kick off against Everton has been put back half an hour after church groups voiced their concerns. The local Anglican Church is close to Villa Park and holds a special open-air Easter service on Sunday.

But the Premier League’s Tim Vine says there are no rules being broken. “It appears to me that [the churches] have a wider issue with games being played on Easter Sunday. Legally it is fine and that has been the case for a long time now.”

Before this season only eight top-flight games have been played on Easter Sunday, but four of these have been in the last three years.