Since 1871, December 26 – called Boxing Day – has been a public holiday in England. It’s a sales day but it’s also a football day, because the Premier League has no truce and plays throughout the holiday season. “It’s a moment of sharing and cohesion,” as described on franceinfo Vincent Chaudel’s website. This sports economist explains that keeping these matches avoids “real” economic problems and allows the Premier League “to be the only tournament to watch between Christmas and New Year’s Eve”, especially because the French are observing a truce.
franceinfo: Why is this Boxing Day tradition necessary in the UK?
Vincent Chudel: It is a moment of sharing and cohesion. This is the time when English football, between Christmas and New Years, takes advantage of this period of respite when people are available and go on two to three days of matches. It’s a ritual, a meeting created now and it’s also a moment the League has been able to sell to broadcasters. In this case, Amazon bought the match package this year, and of course in the event of a postponement, that would have been an economic problem for the league. But above all, I think it is a reflection of the weight of football in British society. In France, we did not hesitate to cancel the tournament due to Covid-19. In England, Boris Johnson avoided this kind of decision, it is he who already has the problem of popularity.
If matches were postponed due to Covid-19, what should have been done?
The announcer has planned for this period. If matches didn’t happen, we’d have to find Plan B. We see it in France, for example, with Rugby Boxing Day. Sunday evening we should have had Toulouse Stadium – the French stadium and Canal+ need to find a plan B.
Conversely, will the continuation of these matches, with others postponed on a very tight schedule, end up posing a problem for the Premier League?
Yes, of course. But we saw that in 2020, tournaments and tournaments were organized. But here, we are still on a very constrained agenda because it is a special year of the World Cup. This competition takes place in November and December. So we will have to finish the tournament at any cost before the end of May so we can start again in the summer and play the first part of the tournament before the World Cup. This is why postponed matches pose real problems. Finally, the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off on January 9, with players like Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah, who should be absent in the hope that they can return without quarantine, for example.
Is this UK Boxing Day also a way to highlight English football internationally? Since in France, for example, as is the armistice, football fans can be tempted by English football?
Of course, this is also the reason for its success. The success of the English Premier League is largely due to its internationalization. It is normal first and foremost with all countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. Then, there’s actually this specific Boxing Day window, which allows it to be the only one to watch between Christmas and New Year’s. This is a topic that makes all the difference with the Bundesliga, for example, who have had an extended winter break. This is the opportunity to watch mainly English football. The Bundesliga did that. It was the first tournament to resume despite Covid-19. There was only the Bundesliga to watch, which allowed the Bundesliga to be overextended. So there is a tactical dimension in this media window.
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