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What happened to the Boxing Day derby?

Football News 24/7
Anyone under 60 will be hard pressed to recall the days when football was played on Christmas day with another game on Boxing day. But that was the norm earlier in the 20th century with teams playing 'derby' games home and away in succesive days. With transport difficulties and precious other diversions (no shops open and little TV) for the masses other than racing and greyhounds it was hardly surprsing these fixtures were hugely popular at the time.

But as times changed the Christmas day fixtures dwindled in popularity amongst supporters and players.

Perhaps surspsingly games lingered on in Scotland longer, and the last time a full set of Christmas Day fixtures was played in Scotland was in 1971. Celtic beat Hearts 3-2 at home, Dundee United beat Dunfermline by the same score at Tannadice, and Kilmarnock overcame Morton 4-2 at Rugby Park. Other results that day were: Airdrie 1-1 Clyde, East Fife 1-1 Motherwell, Falkirk 0-3 Aberdeen, Hibs 0-1 Rangers, Partick 0-1 Ayr, and St Johnstone 0-0 Dundee. A partial programme went aeaed as well as late as 1976 the last time a top flight Scottish game ocurred on Christmas day.

Meanwhile, the last games played on Christmas Day in England were in 1959, when Blackburn beat Blackpool 1-0 at home in the old first division and Coventry beat Wrexham 5-3 in the third.

But significantly the idea of a Boxing day derby was still the norm in the fixture list right through the 60s and 70s. It is only in the last 20 years or so that the concept of a Bank holiday derby has been avoided by the football authorities aware of potential crowd trouble, and big police bills on a bank holiday. Clubs have also taken the view that a big crowd is assured anywayon Boxing day and actually would prefer the derby games on another day thus ensuring another bumper pay day.

But even in the Premier Legaue this season games derbies involving the likes of Blackburn and Bolton or Villa and Wolves for example have not been sell-outs. In the lower leagues though surely a 'local derby' on a bank holiday can only be good for business and the Blue Square Conference are to be applauded for compiling a fixture list where teams played their nearest neighbour. So Fleetwood play Southport not Ebslfleet.

Boxing day is not a day to be travelling with many family celebrations and of course little public transport - and what there is affected by  industrial action. It might be time to re-think the fixture list and have even a more localised look to the fixture list in the Fooball League than there is.

JB

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