The last time football was played on Christmas Day in England

Football at Christmas is one of the best times of the year for fans in England.

It is not ideal for players and coaches as there are matches at all levels that come fast and hard. But you might be able to watch your team three or four times in a little over a week at the end of December, around the holidays.

Boxing Day football is a fixture on the calendar, just like New Year’s Day. There will usually be another match between these and one just before Christmas, depending on where the weekend falls.

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League
The football schedule is always very busy at Christmas | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA / Getty Images

Christmas Day itself was one of them, often a double header with Boxing Day where a team could face the same opponent at home and away for consecutive days.

In 1957/58, defending Premier Division champions Manchester United faced Luton at Old Trafford on Christmas Day, then traveled south to face them again at Kenilworth Road the next day.

It was normal then, and if it weren’t for back-to-back Christmas Day and Boxing Day matches, it would be Christmas Day and December 27, as it was when Manchester United and Liverpool faced each other at home and away in quick succession in 1948/49.

Christmas Day football had been the norm since the very early years of the Football League, with champions Preston taking on Victorian-era heavyweights Aston Villa on Christmas Day 1889.

Early Cup Final
Full league schedules took place on Christmas Day | General Photo Agency / Getty Images

There were Manchester derbies on Christmas Day in 1896 and 1897, while there was also a North London derby on Christmas Day in 1897, and again in 1911.

Arsenal always played away from home on Christmas Day 1913, when they moved to Highbury until more than 10 years after World War I, as the lease on the land on which the stadium was built over games Christmas banned. This finally changed in 1925 when the club bought the lease and could then use the land without restriction.

The most famous Christmas Day football may not have been an organized game at all, but was part of the brief Christmas truce on the battlefields of World War I in 1914, when soldiers from both sides left their trenches and greeted each other in “no man’s land”. “.

Unlike today, entertainment for the masses was much rarer in the Victorian era and in the 20th century, before the advent of television and even radio before the 1920s. Christmas was a rare holiday and go. at the games was something to do.

Cup Final at Wembley
There was less to do before WWII | News Agency / Getty Images

Christmas Day football continued into the 1930s and into the war leagues. After World War II ended in 1945, Christmas Day football reached its peak in the late 1940s, perhaps in response to concessions made by millions during the conflict.

But despite huge numbers of spectators in the late 1940s – an estimated 3.5 million people attended games over a three-day period in 1949 – Christmas Day football did not last. much longer in England. After an idyllic “White Christmas” in 1956, the full final schedule of Christmas Day matches scheduled by the Football League took place in 1957.

On that day, teenager Jimmy Greaves scored four times for Chelsea in a 7-4 win over Portsmouth, as it was one of the last games Manchester United’s Busby Babes would play together, just six weeks before the Munich air disaster on February 6. 1958, defeating Luton 3-0.

Christmas Day matches suddenly became scarce, with just three in the first flight on December 25, 1958 and only one the following year in 1959. This 1959 Premier League contest between Blackburn and Blackpool at Ewood Park and a clash of The lower league between Coventry and Wrexham have been the last Christmas Day matches in England for several years, the last having arrived in 1965.

Bloomfield Road
Blackpool hosted the last Christmas Day match in England in 1965 | Heritage Images / Getty Images

When it arrived, it was another case fully launched in Lancashire in the first flight between Blackpool and Blackburn, held at Bloomfield Road. The Tangerines won 4-2, with a young future World Cup winner named Alan Ball among the scorers. And so, a decades-old tradition came to an end.

Even though Christmas Day football was extremely popular immediately after World War II, times were changing rapidly and a number of factors are believed to have contributed to its relatively sudden withdrawal from the late 1950s.

One of those reasons was that public transportation had always operated on Christmas Day in the first half of the 20th century, allowing people to get to the games. This changed in 1959, when suddenly there were no more trains or buses on Christmas Day.

Another is the advent of popular projector technology at a similar time. Although they were first experimented with in 1878, stadium floodlights were not common until the 1950s – Arsenal had lights on a stand in Highbury as early as the 1930s at the request of manager Herbert Chapman , but the club refused to allow them to do so. to be used. But the spotlight meant that games normally packed into the day at Christmas could be rearranged for parties at other times.

Newcastle United v Fulham - Premier League
Floodlight Technology Helped End Christmas Day Games | Alex Pantling / Getty Images

Another change was a spike in household television ownership across the country in the late 1950s, when more and more families suddenly had access to their own television sets. It meant there was a leap in new entertainment, negating the need to go to football on Christmas Day.

Although this lasted longer in Scotland and there was an attempt to bring him back by Brentford in 1983 which never happened, it has now been 55 years since the last Christmas Day game in English football .

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