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Why there is no Boxing Day in Serie A

And how the Serie B proves that it would be a success

Why there is no Boxing Day in Serie A And how the Serie B proves that it would be a success

The Boxing Day tradition is said to date back to Victorian times when all employees were given the day off and received a gift for their work during the year. The custom of spending the day after Christmas at the stadium is now part of English culture, making 26 December Football Day, when some of the most anticipated games of the year are scheduled. Yesterday, in fact, Antonio Conte's Tottenham, leaders Arsenal and Liverpool, who just a few days earlier had played a spectacular Carabao Cup match with Manchester City, took to the pitch after the world break. A celebration of football that stretches from the Premier League to all other English categories to the brink of professionalism, uniting every football fan in a symbolic Christmas hug.

And, as every year, one wonders why such a tradition is not possible in Serie A, where play will quietly resume on 4 January 2023, despite the fact that clubs have been on break for over a month and have had to invent friendlies and tours to all corners of the planet. Not even the uniqueness of a winter World Cup in Qatar, in which Italy did not participate, has persuaded the football league to use a date that is particularly profitable for both spectators and television channels. In fact, there have been attempts to introduce Boxing Day in Serie A as well, but these never caught on, despite the far from negligible results. Initially, attempts were made to use Boxing Day for the 2017/18 Coppa Italia quarter-finals, with matches between Lazio and Fiorentina on the 26th and Inter and AC Milan the following day. The 2018/19 season then saw Serie A return to the pitch after Christmas for the first time since 1971, with a day dedicated entirely to national sport. It began at lunchtime with Frosinone-Milan, then continued with five more matches in the afternoon and ended in the evening with the big match between Inter and Napoli at the San Siro.

The latter will be one of the reasons why the Boxing Day experiment will soon be shelved by the Lega Calcio. Before kick-off, ultra groups from Inter, Varese and Nice gathered outside the Meazza stadium to attack the buses carrying the Neapolitan fans, which ended with the death of Daniele Belardinelli, the 35-year-old leader of the ultra group Blood&Honour from Varese. And the situation on the pitch was also immediately to prove very tense, with shameful racist whistles against Kalidou Koulibaly, who was later to be sent off by referee Mazzoleni in total confusion. What happened inside and outside the San Siro had no bearing on the success of the experiment, however, as stadiums recorded higher than seasonal averages and just as many viewers in front of the TV were still digesting Christmas dinner. 254.000 spectators went to the stadium to watch the matches, while SkySport data spoke of an average of 5 million viewers on matchday 18, more than on any other day in the first half of the season.

The numbers were not enough, however, and after just one attempt Serie A went back into hibernation, skipping the Christmas window altogether. No real reason was ever given, and so the causes were attributed to a lack of intention to renew the calendar combined with footballers' preference to spend their Christmas holidays with their families and the union obligations of the categories in relation to the organisation and logistics of a football match. Also the Figc president Gabriele Gravina also expressed great disappointment at the absence of Boxing Day in the Serie A championship when asked about the issue. He felt that 'playing at Christmas time is the best opportunity for families to enjoy their festive season".

However, as always, the final say rests with Lega Calcio, who have so far shown no interest in experimenting further with the Premier League calendar. And so this desire for festive football has been taken up by Serie B, which has created its own Boxing Day in recent years, inserting top games and reaping great rewards. Just yesterday, the big match between Genoa and Bari gathered more than 50,000 spectators at the San Nicola, a record number for Serie B, proving that there are no parties or relatives to support your team.

Moreover, spreading the matches over Boxing Day and the days between Christmas and New Year's Day would at least partially avoid a match being played every three days, overloading the calendar with the attendant risks of injury and fatigue in a season shortened by the World Cup. Somehow, it's as if Lega Calcio has decided to prefer a weekday evening shift to a bank holiday afternoon shift, a decision that underlines just how stuck in form Serie A is, despite its many bland pronouncements of innovation. Without considering the Premier League model or the unattainable American sports where the NBA and NFL even pitch at Christmas, but also Serie B itself once again demonstrated that another calendar in Italy is also possible.