I have devised a fool-proof measure for secularisation levels across Europe. All you have to do is look at the football fixture list, and see how many games are scheduled in the Easter period. The results are as follows:
England, despite Cameron's recent nonsense, comes out looking quite secular. Most of the lower league games are being played on Good Friday at 3pm. Presumably they act as the fixtures that TV producers would like to wash their hands of. Easter Saturday brings in over half the Premier League games, but none of these games are really very alive. West Ham v Crystal Palace? Newcastle v Swansea? They are almost respectfully downbeat. Easter Sunday, however, is yet another Sky Sports Super Sunday. The joy of resurrection can now be celebrated with the weekend's most intriguing fixtures. They can be feasted on one after the other, staring at midday and ending at 6pm. The new liturgy.
By contrast, Serie A has scheduled all its games for Easter Saturday, leaving Italians free to go about their Good Fridays and Easter Sundays in more traditional ways.
It should come as no surprise that France is the most godless country, with the majority of games taking place on Easter Sunday...or just Sunday, to the French. Good Friday also gets a game, although curiously there is nothing scheduled for Easter Saturday. Perhaps that in-between day doesn't have enough iconoclastic potential for the French. Although the fixtures could also be construed as a sort of dramatisation of the Easter story. The one fixture on Friday falls to the ground and dies. Saturday is a non-event. But Sunday! Sunday brings Ligue 1 back to life!
The fixture list for this weekend in the Bundesliga looks exactly like the fixture list for the previous 30 weeks of the Bundesliga. Typical Germans, Alex Ferguson would say. Their league runs like clockwork. A fixture amendment would mean that the system is flawed, but the system is flawless. A sign of secularity, or a sign of German efficiency? It's too hard to tell.
Most surprising to me at least is Spain. Spain, that most Catholic of countries for so many years, has not escaped the fate of other European nations. France, it seems, is contagious. One survey from 10 years ago reveals that only 14% of young people in Spain describe themselves as "religious." But more scientific than such surveys is the fixture schedule for La Liga this weekend. Good Friday sees Atletico Madrid take on Elche. This is especially odd, since La Liga games are almost never on Fridays. Easter Saturday contains only three games, each as exciting as West Ham v Crystal Palace. Easter Sunday then witnesses four games, with one kicking off at 12pm local time.
One other country of note is Scotland. Rather curiously, all of the league games in Scotland, like in Italy, are being played on Easter Saturday. Except for one. Inverness play Aberdeen on Good Friday. Do one of those two have a European engagement next week that I'm unaware of?