Why the EPL Should Take Tips from American Sports for Boxing Day Fixture List

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 20, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Robin van Persie of Manchester United celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on December 15, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Boxing Day is one of the highest profile days on the English footballing calendar, but this year's lineup leaves fans wondering if the matches are even worth watching. 

The highlight of the otherwise lackluster fixture list is the clash between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford.

Some fans can make the argument that given the recent performances of Norwich City their home match with Chelsea is one to watch. 

But let's be honest. Who wants to see Norwich play Chelsea on one of the biggest days of the season? 

This is not a rare occurrence as the EPL fixture list on Boxing Day has been lacking any big name matches for quite some time. 

The past four Boxing Days have given us plenty of relegation six-pointers—like the Wigan vs. Wolves match in 2010 and Portsmouth vs. West Ham clash in 2009—but nothing that catches the eye of an outside observer. 

This is why the EPL should take some pointers from two American sports: the NFL and NBA. Take notice of how they treat their fans with rivalry games that attract plenty of attention on marquee holidays. 

The NFL's holiday to showoff the best of the league is Thanksgiving Day.

Every year, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys play home games at their respective stadiums.

The games on Thanksgiving are no walkovers for both teams as they usually face either a rival team from their division or a strong opponent.

For Detroit fans, the Thanksgiving game is their Super Bowl. 

The Lions have historically been one of the worst teams in the NFL, and the game on Thanksgiving has always been a time to showcase either their fighting spirit or how awful they really are. 

The most frequent opponent for the Lions has been their NFC North rivals Green Bay. The two have played each other five times on Thanksgiving since the turn of the century.

The Cowboys have taken on a cavalcade of teams in recent years, whether it be historic franchises like the Miami Dolphins in 2011 and Chicago Bears in 2004 or big name opponents with star players like Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in 2010. 

A Thanksgiving rivalry was reignited this season when the Cowboys played the Washington Redskins in a battle of NFC East titans. 

The NFL added a new twist to the tradition of Thanksgiving by adding a third game to air in primetime on Thanksgiving night in 2006. 

This season's primetime matchup proved once again how bad the New York Jets were and how spectacular Tom Brady's New England Patriots can still be. 

The year before, Americans were treated to a splendid defensive battle between two head coaches who were brothers, John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens and Jim of the San Francisco 49ers. 

The NBA is also no stranger to putting their biggest players and strongest rivalries on display for their showcase holiday, Christmas Day. 

Every year when the regular season schedule is released, almost every basketball fan turns directly to who will be playing on Christmas Day.

This season's lineup is once again filled with star-studded action and intriguing matchups.

The biggest game on Christmas Day this season will be the 2012 NBA Finals rematch between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat.

If that game was not enough to force the casual sports fan to tune in, the appetizer for the NBA Finals rematch is a game between two storied franchises, the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. 

For those wondering about the history of the NBA on Christmas Day, NBA.com has put together plenty of fun facts about games played in the past. 

The article, which is packed with plenty of statistics, states that four NBA MVPs and 29 All-Stars will be on display during the five games on Christmas Day this season. 

Now, let us turn the attention of this article back to the EPL and how they can improve on their weak fixture list for Boxing Day. 

Just like the two American sports, the EPL should schedule strong rivalries to be played on Boxing Day, a holiday when most of Britain is tuning in to the watch these fixtures. 

Not all of the 10 matches played on Boxing Day have to be derby matches, but they should give the fans plenty to talk about before and after the matches are played. 

One suggestion would be to schedule three of the biggest rivalries in the EPL and put them in three different television slots. 

The matches that would gain the most interest in my opinion would be the North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham, the Tyne-Wear Derby played between Newcastle and Sunderland and to finish the day off, a classic match between bitter rivals Manchester United and Liverpool.

These three fixtures already create a buzz across England and throughout the world. So why not schedule them on Boxing Day when most of the working population across the world is home with their families?

Since I began covering the EPL for BleacherReport in 2010, the one thing about English fans that has stuck out to me the most is the passion they have for their clubs and the utter disgust they have when you mention their rival club. 

One of the best outlets for this passion should be on Boxing Day. 

Yes, there are concerns about fan violence and the excessive amounts of alcohol being consumed by fans during the holiday season, but with enough control from both clubs and the staff working at the stadium, this can be controlled in an efficient manner. 

For the two London clubs, raucous fans may be the least of their concerns as the workers of the London Underground have forced Arsenal to postpone their last two Boxing Day matches due to potential strikes. 

With those concerns also comes a sense of optimism that such a set of passionate derby matches could be played all on one day in three different time slots in front of a worldwide audience. 

If the EPL does not want to schedule derby matches on Boxing Day, at least make the fixtures intriguing like a Manchester City vs. Chelsea or Liverpool vs. Arsenal match that still keeps the fans interested in high profile matches. 

While I will still sit in front of my television all day on December 26 to see if Norwich can upset Chelsea or if Stoke can hold yet another visiting club to a boring goalless draw at the Britannia Stadium, the EPL needs to find a way to make the Boxing Day fixtures more appetizing to the casual fan. 

By taking a page out of the playbook of the NFL and NBA, the EPL has nothing to lose and everything to gain by scheduling big matches on the biggest footballing holiday of the year. 


What do you think the EPL should do about the Boxing Day fixture list?

Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter @JTansey90.