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Fans are only just realising why English football is now played on Boxing Day instead of Christmas Day

Fans are only just realising why English football is now played on Boxing Day instead of Christmas Day

There are a few reasons.

It is a yearly footballing tradition to see games played up and down the country on Boxing Day - but there are several reasons why December 26 is now chosen over Christmas Day.

Football used to be played yearly on Christmas Day, a practice that ended in 1965 following a Lancashire derby between Blackpool and Blackburn.

It began in the Victorian era, given that Christmas Day was a rare public holiday. This was, of course, before the invention of television, meaning people didn't get the chance to see the carnage Phil Mitchell was causing on EastEnders, Del Boy and Rodney's exploits in Only Fools and Horses, and you get the idea.

This year, whether it's EFL action on Sky Sports, Amazon Prime's coverage of the Premier League, or a match in-person, most fans will get to see their team play football on Boxing Day.

So why did Christmas Day football stop - and why was the decision made to make Boxing Day a footballing tradition instead?

It all dates back as far as 1871, when legislation was introduced to consider Boxing Day as a bank holiday - with Christmas Day being a common law holiday.

Because of that, upon the introduction of the Football League in 1888, clubs would often schedule games on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the knowledge that they could attract significant crowds on both days.

In that same year, Everton played twice on Christmas Day, winning both - before playing a third game in two games on Boxing Day.

By the late 1950s, though, clubs were less attracted to scheduling games on December 25. With the introduction of floodlights, therefore enabling games to be played in the evening, there was less requirement to play games on public holidays.

The 1965 clash between Blackpool and Blackburn actually came eight years after the final full Christmas Day fixture programme for First Division clubs.

Blackpool winger Graham Oates, who played in the game, told The Telegraph in 2016: "We always used to play on Christmas Day because we'd get a bumper crowd of holidaymakers, they'd shut the gates at 2pm.

"Loads of people would go to Blackpool for a Christmas break, so the idea was to give them something to entertain them. And for the club to make some money, obviously."

In a slightly bizarre twist, the two teams were due to play each other again on Boxing Day - only for a frozen pitch to scupper those plans.

But with players and fans now starting to prefer to spend Christmas Day at home with their families, the decision was made for a permanent festive fixture switch to Boxing Day - a tradition that remains to this day.

Featured Image Credit: Getty

Topics: Football, Premier League, EFL Championship, League One, League Two, England