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Christmas cricket on the cards Down Under - report

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – The last barrier to a 365-day professional sporting calendar in Australia looks set to come down with a report in the local media on Friday saying cricketers had agreed to play Twenty20 matches on Christmas Day.

The most important feast in the Christian year has been a sport-free day for half a century with cricket fans having to wait until Dec. 26 to get their fix when the Melbourne Cricket Ground hosts the annual Boxing Day test match.

The Australian newspaper, however, has published a leaked e-mail from the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) telling player agents they had agreed to stage Big Bash League matches on Dec. 25.

The agreement has provisos for players to opt out of matches for reasons of religious belief and Cricket Australia, which has long been keen to stage matches on Christmas Day, indicated it definitely would not happen this year.

“At this stage, we have not finalised our Big Bash schedule beyond the upcoming season,” a CA spokesperson said.

“Any future scheduling will be worked through with appropriate parties including the players and the ACA before being publicly announced.”

The ACA was not immediately available for comment but has previously been opposed to the move.

“Christmas Day is important down time for players to spend with their family and friends,” ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson said last year.

“It is important that players, who spend much of their time travelling and playing the game they love, stay connected to their family and friends.

“Research tells us that this is important for player wellbeing.”

The idea is not completely unprecedented and Sheffield Shield matches were frequently played at Adelaide Oval on Christmas Day until the late 1960s.

Australia lost the third test to West Indies at the same ground on Dec. 25, 1951 and beat India in match which included action on Christmas Day in 1967, also in Adelaide.

The National Basketball League (NBA) in the United States has held games on Dec. 25 since the 1940s, while two National Football League games were played on each of the last two Christmas Days because the holiday fell on Sunday and Monday.

Top flight Christmas Day soccer was a mainstay of the English sporting calendar until 1959 and the practice continued in Scotland until the 1970s.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Rory Carroll)

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