The Boxing Day fixture list is one of the most anticipated and celebrated days of the Premier League season.
This season, 14 of the 20 Premier League teams have scheduled matches on Boxing Day, with the other two playing the following day (complete schedule at the end of the post).
Other leagues around Europe take a two-week break around the Christmas and New Year holidays, but the UK piles on the fixtures. U.S. fans can equate the day to how the NFL is synonymous with Thanksgiving, or (to a lesser extent) how Christmas Day is for the NBA. Premier League games rack up ratings as fans plan to be home planted on the couch, feasting on Christmas Day leftovers and enjoying Premier League soccer.
So what is Boxing Day and how did it come to such prominence? Here’s a brief run-through of the history and tradition surrounding Boxing Day in the UK.
What is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day is an annual holiday in England that falls on December 26, or the day after Christmas. It is a “bank holiday” — essentially what Americans would refer to as a federal holiday — meaning most businesses are closed and most employees have the day off.
The term “Boxing Day” has been traced back to Charles Dickens who coined the term in 1833, and Boxing Day has been an established holiday since 1871, although the holiday itself is thought to date all the way back to Victorian times. It is named for the tradition of employers handing out boxes of Christmas gifts to employees, especially to servants and other household employees who were required to work on Christmas.
Today, while the original intent of the holiday has all but disappeared (most holiday charity events now take place in the run-up to Christmas instead), the day has become known for two things: sports and shopping.
Who has the best record on Boxing Day?
In the first year of the Football League in 1888, Derby County played Bolton Wanderers and West Brom hosted Preston North End on Boxing Day. Since, there have been 3,730 matches in the English Football League played on Boxing Day according to the Association of Football Statisticians.
West Brom has played the most Boxing Day matches in league history, with 105 games played to a 44W-39L-22D record. Manchester United has gained the most points on Boxing Day, with 171 points gathered on a 51W-27L-18D record across 96 Boxing Day matches.
The player with the most goals scored on Boxing Day in Premier League history is Robbie Fowler with nine, with Harry Kane behind him at eight. The highest-scoring Boxing Day fixture in Premier League history was a 4-4 draw between Chelsea and Aston Villa in 2007.
The highest-scoring Boxing Day in English top flight history happened in 1963, when an outlandish 66 goals were scored across 10 matches, marked by a bonkers 10-1 win for Fulham over Ipswich Town and an 8-2 drubbing by Blackburn over West Ham.
Boxing Day’s importance to soccer & other sports
Boxing Day is a massive event on the sporting calendar in the UK.
For football fans, they will see the Premier League load up on games throughout the day. This year, there are seven matches on Boxing Day spanning seven total hours of gameplay starting at 10 a.m. ET and lasting through 5:00 p.m. ET, with slight half-hour breaks between slates.
Adding up all the games, there will be 14 hours of soccer played in the Premier League on December 26 this year (plus stoppage time, of course).
However, soccer isn’t the only sport which celebrates Boxing Day with a showcase event. Test cricket — the longest, oldest, and “most pure” format of the sport — also often has a major event on Boxing Day, usually the first day of the five scheduled days for a test match.
Australia has hosted a Boxing Day test every year since 1990, usually at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. If the Ashes are played in Australia that December, as they are this year, one of the tests will inveitably begin on Boxing Day.
Horse racing in England also usually loads up the schedule on Boxing Day, punctuated by the King George VI Chase, the second-most popular horse race in the sport’s calendar behind the Cheltenham Gold Cup which takes place in March.
How to watch Premier League Boxing Day
Premier League matches are broadcast in the USA across NBCUniversal networks (NBC, NBCSN, USA Network, Telemundo and Universo) and its Peacock streaming service.
Premier League games on NBC and NBCSN will be streamed on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app for authenticated cable, satellite or telco subscribers.
Televised matches can also be streamed live on fuboTV, which offers a free seven-day trial .
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