My question sounds easy: why is Boxing Day used as a match day in the English Premier League (EPL)?

The Wikipedia article on Boxing Day states that:

In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, it is traditional for the Premier League, Scottish Premier League and Irish Premier League respectively, as well as the lower divisions and rugby leagues, to hold a full programme of football and Rugby League matches on Boxing Day. Traditionally, matches on Boxing Day are played against local rivals. This was originally to avoid teams and their fans having to travel a long distance to an away game on the day after Christmas Day.

But, at the same moment, if I am seeing this correctly, Arsenal is free today.

How important is this Boxing Day as a match-day, and how did it became that important?Also, if it is important, then why Arsenal is free? Why not let the players celebrate Christmas with their families, as the fans will get to the stadiums on other days as well?

1 Answer 1


Boxing Day is celebrated on December 26, day after Christmas, as a national holiday in Great Britain. For general knowledge, Boxing Day gets its name from an old custom where the rich gave boxes of gifts to poor.

Having league games on Boxing Day is a long tradition in England, although as you said there are a lot of players (especially foreigners) who dislike the practice:

Some foreign players in the Premier League bemoan the hardship of playing over the Christmas period, while others accept that it is part of the English tradition and relish the intense fixture list that can take in three Premier League games and an FA Cup third-round tie.

There have been calls for a winter break to be introduced in England as many argue that players suffer from fatigue and need a break in order to be fresh in the second half of the season.

But, in the end, football is for the fans (or that’s what I would like to think), and these Boxing Day League matches are a true celebration to all football fans, and lots of people go to Boxing Day matches with their families and friends.

When the fixtures are released in the summer, fans are eager to see who their side are playing, as it is often an occasion when the entire family go to a match.

Matches are traditionally played against local rivals or teams within a close proximity of each other so as to avoid supporters having to travel a long distance after Christmas Day and when the train timetables are reduced.

Arsenal was supposed to play today against West Ham but it was cancelled due to a tube strike.

Source: About.com, “Boxing Day Soccer Tradition In England”.

  • I'll upvote your answer, because it answer the Arsenal question. However, I will not accept it as an answer, as I think it doesn't address the main question. Thanks.
    – Bernhard
    Dec 26, 2012 at 10:17
  • 1
    @Bernhard I've updated my answer, what more do want to know about Boxing Day? I will be happy to try and help you..
    – Dor Cohen
    Dec 26, 2012 at 10:26
  • 1
    Hmm, I think one cannot give a better answer as in why it became a tradition. In know in Holland they tried to introduce it, but that was very unsuccessful.
    – Bernhard
    Dec 26, 2012 at 10:45
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    I think that's about as good of an answer as you can give. It sounds like merely a holiday tradition similar to American football on Thanksgiving.
    – eds
    Dec 27, 2012 at 20:09
  • @Bernhard I think the answer you're looking for is that it's an excellent way to make money. Most people are off work and looking for something to do. This guarantees both full stadia and high viewer figures.
    – Niall
    Jul 6, 2017 at 11:35

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