With Christmas literally just around the corner, many people are scratching their heads as they wonder what presents to buy for their families. This seasonal task is made easier for football fans, especially in Britain. No head scratching is required when it comes to buying a ticket to a football match on Boxing Day.
This is all thanks to two non-league clubs, Sheffield FC and Hallam FC, which also happen to be the world’s oldest and second oldest clubs respectively. It was on this day 157 years ago, that they played their first inter-club match.
The newly formed Football League staged their first Boxing Day match in1888 when Christmas Day was a rare public holiday. However, up until the fifties, there was a full programme of fixtures on the 25th when people bravely donned hats, gloves and scarves and made their way in the cold to the stadiums, rather than remain at home pulling crackers and pulling faces at mother-in-laws and inquisitive aunties. But as the fifties wore on, the crowds to the stadiums began to dwindle as transport workers started to enjoy the Christmas Day festivities. As a result, fixtures were removed from the football calender, and the last Christmas Day match was played in1957.
Football fans rub their hands with glee when Yuletide comes around. Not so the footballers, as this is when they work most for their bread and butter having to play matches on 23rd, 26th, 29th of December and also on the 2nd of January.
The fans are not the only ones rubbing their hands. So also are the sponsors, advertisers and the clubs themselves as the festive season has proved to be an all round money-spinner. With ten Premier League matches in one day and attendances swelled by home-comers returning to see families, only to escape from them the very next day, it is hardly surprising that their revenues are boosted.
The atmosphere in and around the stadiums becomes a grotto hubbubbing with the air mobbed by endless chatter about the winter transport window and life in general. Supporters bump into old pals and old flames and sip drinks with seldom seen siblings. Yes, football feels fab at Christmas and the Brits do not want to change that tradition.