Why is there so much football at Christmas in Britain?
Isn’t it fun when those 1963 Boxing Day results get circulated and find themselves in every corner of every social media feed across the land?
Okay, it might get a bit boring year after year, but it is a reminder of a special tradition that breathes romance into football in the birthplace of the beautiful game.
Whether it’s an enraptured child heading to their first match on a cold Boxing Day afternoon after unwrapping football tickets the day before, only to witness a dreary 1-0 defeat (personal experience? Maybe) or a worse-for-wear 20-something-year-old trudging through the turnstiles on a damp New Year’s Day (personal experience? Isn’t it for everyone?), festive football is magical.
But why, when no one else does it, is there so much football at Christmas in Britain?
Well, football (we use the term very loosely, here) at Christmas time probably dates much further back than you would’ve expected.
It’s always been around, pretty much.
Despite the English FA’s formal formation in 1863, ball-kicking antics over the festive period date as far back as the 12th century with variations known as medieval football or mob football. During that era, games were often put on at Christmas with some still played today, such as the Orkney Ba game on Christmas Day.
In more recent times, with the growth of the sport across the country, football has always been played on public holidays; Christmas Day became a popular time for football in the 19th century as a public working-class event on a day off. Indeed, clubs would take advantage of the opportunity for packed terraces, so football would often be a feature twice in two days over the festive period, with Boxing Day also featuring matches.
Legislation in 1871 would eventually designate fixtures to Boxing Day in England and Wales, leaving Christmas Day due to the fact that it was an established day of rest and worship. And, indeed, over time, football on 25 December has dwindled – the last game to be played on Christmas Day itself in England was back in 1965, when Blackburn beat Blackpool 1-0 in the First Divison and Coventry beat Wrexham 5-3 in the Third.
Ever since the increased popularity of football in the late 1800s and early 1900s, football has been synonymous with the lazy, snowy days over Christmas, with Boxing Day football becoming a monumental occasion in the UK’s sporting calendar.
It’s not a common sight across Europe, however.
Traditionally, other European countries – and all other major leagues in the continent -take winter breaks from before Christmas until the new year, ranging from a couple of weeks to nearly a month in some cases.
There has been chattering in recent years about the Premier League adopting a winter break; who wants that, though? Who wants to be stuck at home when you can be shivering in an uncovered away end with the worst hangover in living memory?
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Tottenham director Fabio Paratici banned from football worldwide by FIFA
Tottenham managing director of football Fabio Paratici has been banned from football worldwide after FIFA extended the punishment imposed in Italy following his involvement in Juventus’ penalised accounting practices.
In January, the Italian giants suffered a shock 15-point deduction after the club was deemed to have inflated player transfer values in swap deals among other financial offences.
Paratici joined the Juventus hierarchy in 2010 and was the club’s sporting director between November 2018 and the summer of 2021, before he took up a similar role at Tottenham. The investigation into Juve’s accounts scrutinised transactions between 2019 and 2021 – when Paratici was at the heart of the club’s dealings.
At the start of the year, Paratici was one of several former Juventus board members that were banned from football following the conclusion of the investigation by the Italian Football Federation. Initially, Paratici was handed a 30-month ban from just Italian football, although the threat of extending the scope of that punishment internationally always loomed.
On Wednesday, FIFA released a statement confirming that they had indeed taken up that option, extending the ban handed out to Paratici and the other Juventus board members – including former owner Andrea Agnelli – worldwide.
The statement read: “FIFA can confirm that following a request by the Italian FA (FIGC), the chairperson of FIFA disciplinary committee has decided to extend the sanctions imposed by FIGC on several football officials to have worldwide effect.”
Paratici was due to be in court this week for a a preliminary committal hearing regarding a portion of the charges levelled at Juve, but the date for those proceedings have been shunted back to 10 May. Juve appealed their 15-point penalty – which the prosecution only recommended as a nine-point punishment – and will hear the ruling of which on 19 April.
On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders, Graeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss Julian Nagelsmann’s future and links to the vacant Tottenham head coach role, Barcelona’s ambition to bring Lionel Messi ‘home’, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson, Florian Wirtz, Kalvin Phillips and more!
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Sir Alex Ferguson & Arsene Wenger inducted into Premier League Hall of Fame
Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have become the first managers to be inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame.
The duo won 16 Premier League titles between them across respective long-term spells with Manchester United and Arsenal.
With 13 of those championships, Ferguson is the most decorated manager in the history of the competition. He is the only coach to have won the Premier League three times in a row, doing so on two different occasions.
Ferguson said: “I’m truly delighted to be inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame. It’s an honour when you receive recognition like this. However, it’s not just about me as a person. It’s about the job at Manchester United and the bond we had over many years, so I’m also proud for the club, the staff and my players.
“My job was to send the fans home happy. United’s history and my own expectations were the things that drove me, and I then had to try and develop all my players with the same expectations and make sure we could go out and achieve them.
“I feel Arsene is a very worthy inductee as he transformed Arsenal Football Club fantastically. They became a tough team to compete with and we both wanted to win, which motivated us further. Through the years since retirement, we’d go for dinner together in a little restaurant he knows well in Switzerland. He is a really interesting man and I enjoy his company, but it is still my job to pick the wine!”
Wenger arrived in England in 1996 as one of the Premier League’s first foreign coaches, and quickly proved sceptics wrong, transforming Arsenal into title winners and changing English football’s culture with his scouting and dietary expertise.
The Frenchman won three Premier League titles with Arsenal, including an unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ season in 2003/04.
Wenger said: “I am very grateful to have been selected for the Premier League Hall of Fame. We always wanted to give something special to the fans and when you have players capable of remarkable things, the most important thing for me is the obligation of perfection.
“I’d like to be known as someone who loved Arsenal, who respected the values of the club and left it in a position where it can grow and become even bigger.
“To share this with Sir Alex is a great honour for me. It’s like two boxers, you fight like mad and go the distance together. At the end of the day, you have respect and it will be a great opportunity to meet with him, share a good bottle of wine and memories of our old battles.”
In addition to Ferguson and Wenger, there are 16 other inductees in the Premier League Hall of Fame.
Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry were the first two people inducted when the Hall of Fame was created in 2021. They were followed later that year by Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Frank Lampard, Dennis Bergkamp, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham.
In 2022, Wayne Rooney, Patrick Vieira, Sergio Aguero, Didier Drogba, Vincent Kompany, Peter Schmeichel, Paul Scholes and Ian Wright were inducted.
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