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For those of you who think Christmas Day should remain sacred and out of professional sports, you might want to look away now.

Fields and courts across the country fell silent for nearly half a century on December 25, but not anymore as the NBL prepares to host its first Christmas Day match.

Melbourne United will travel to the Superdome in Sydney to face the Kings at 6.30pm AEDT.

The Sydney Kings are going to add some sport to our Christmas Day schedule.(Getty Images. Mark Kolbe)

The NBL billed the game as “the last scheduling frontier in Australian sport” when it was announced back in July, and from a modern perspective, that’s about right.

However, Christmas Day was once a staple around the world and, in some places, still is.

Football, a UK Christmas tradition

In the UK, football is a staple of the festive season, with Boxing Day games fans looking forward to all year round.

However, football was also regularly played on Christmas Day from the earliest days of the leagues in 1889, when Preston North End beat Aston Villa 3-2 at Deepdale, until the last Christmas game in 1965.

Santa is holding an Aston Villa scarf
“Aston Villa” played its first match in the Football League on Christmas Day in 1889.(Getty Images. Aston Villa FC/Neville Williams)

Playing games on one of the few public holidays of the year actually made sense, especially in the pre-television era, and the crowds were regularly very healthy.

Christmas Day saw some memorable matches, often with many goals scored.

Christmas 1940 was particularly wild, with Norwich beating Brighton 18-0, although Brighton had to turn to young players and even recruited some from the crowd to form a team; Southend United beat Clapton Orient 9-3, Bournemouth. Beat Bristol City 7-1 and Bury drew 5-5 with Halifax.

In 1937, Charlton’s goalkeeper Sam Bartram not only had to play on Christmas Day, but he was left on the pitch for 15 minutes by himself.

After heavy fog descended on Stamford Bridge during the Chelsea-Charlton match, the referee ordered everyone to leave, but Bartram didn’t realize he had stayed on the pitch until a policeman emerged from the fog to tell him everyone had left.

The goalkeeper is standing next to the goal in the fog
Arsenal’s Jack Kelsey had a problem with fog stopping a game in 1952, but his team-mates supposedly told him when the game was over. (Getty Images. PA Images:)

Christmas games came to an end in the late 1950s when the last English Football League game was played on Christmas Day, Blackpool v Blackburn Rovers in 1965, with Blackpool winning 4-2 in front of 21,000 people.

However, it wasn’t just men who played on Christmas Day.



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