In Depth

Sport on TV: what's on and when over the Christmas holiday

While the rest of us relax footballers, rugby players and race horses have to keep going – and we get to watch them

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It is the season of good cheer and there will be plenty of cheering for sports fans this Christmas with another packed programme of events to watch on TV.

As ever football provides the centrepiece of the festive offering, and there is Premier League, Championship and FA Cup action to watch over the Christmas break.

If football is the centrepiece of the Christmas sports offering, then there are plenty of delicious side dishes in the form of cricket, rugby, American football and that other Christmas staple, darts.

Football: This year's Christmas schedule is missing a truly titanic clash between two of the big clubs, but that does not mean there is nothing to look forward to. In fact with the biggest teams avoiding each other the potential for a season-changing slip-up is even greater.

With Man City back in the Premier League title race neither they nor Chelsea can afford to drop points, while things are sure to start hotting up further down the table as Man United try to maintain their form and traditional power houses like Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool attempt to see off pretenders like Southampton and West Ham.

All three of Chelsea's matches, including trips to Southampton and Spurs, will be televised as will all of Man Utd's fixtures, as they too visit Spurs.

There are also Championship matches on Boxing Day and 28 and 30 December on Sky. And for real football junkies the Australian A League is being shown on BT Sport, with games kicking off in the morning.

Many people will be lucky enough not to return to work until 5 January and that means the FA Cup third round falls into the Christmas schedule. A repeat of last year's final between Arsenal and Hull on Sunday 4 January – on the BBC – is a great way to round off the Christmas break.

Premier League:

Boxing Day: Chelsea v West Ham United (12.45pm, Sky), Manchester Utd v Newcastle Utd (3pm, BT), Arsenal v QPR (5.30pm, BT), Match of the Day (11pm, BBC)

28 December: Tottenham v Manchester Utd (12pm, BT), Southampton v Chelsea (2.05pm Sky), Newcastle Utd v Everton (4.15pm, Sky), Match of the Day (10.25pm, BBC)

29 December: Liverpool v Swansea City (8pm, Sky)

1 January: Stoke City v Manchester Utd (12.45pm, Sky), Manchester City v Sunderland (3pm, BT), Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea (5.30pm, BT), Match of the Day (10.35pm, BBC) 

FA Cup:

2 January: Cardiff City v Colchester United (7.45pm, BBC Wales)

3 January: Match of the Day (10.50pm, BBC)

4 January: Dover Athletic v Crystal Palace (1pm, BT), Yeovil Town v Manchester United (3.30pm, BT), Arsenal v Hull City (5.30pm, BBC)

Rugby: It's not just footballers who have to sacrifice a boozy Christmas dinner in favour of a stint in the gym, rugby players must also be on their mettle over the festive season. There are plenty of big games on over Christmas, and some are even on terrestrial TV.

There are three Guinness Pro 12 games on various regional BBC stations on Boxing Day and two more on New Year's day. Sky will also televise several Pro 12 games on 27 December and 3 January. French Top 14 games will also be on Sky on 28 December.

However, it is BT who has the Aviva Premiership rights and there are some tasty clashes this year. 

Premiership:

27 December: Bath v Exeter (2pm, BT), Harlequins v Northampton (4pm, BT)

28 December: Gloucester v Wasps (2pm, BT)

2 January: Northampton v Newcastle (7.45pm, BT),

3 January: Saracens v London Irish  (2pm, BT)

4 January: Leicester v Bath (2pm, BT)

Cricket: Mercifully for England fans the national team will not be in action over the Christmas period, but that doesn't mean cricket will be absent from our screens. The Australian Big Bash league will be shown on Sky Sports, with coverage starting at 5.10am and 8.10am.

Fans who want to recall england's former glories can watch Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen in action Down Under. They could even comes face to face on 28 December whene Flintoff's Brisbane Heat play Pietersen's Melbourne Stars (8.10am, Sky)

For those who prefer the longer format, there are three Tests starting on Boxing Day. New Zealand v Sri Lanka begins at 10pm on Christmas day, and Australia v India starts an hour and a half later. The following morning South Africa get underway against West Indies. The upshot being that it will be possible spend more than 12 hours a day watching live Test cricket.

NFL: For those who prefer the razzmatazz of American Football there is the final round of regular season games to look forward to after Christmas. There will be two games shown back to back on Sky on 28 December, with the late game shown on Channel 4 from 1.30am.

The following weekend sees the wildcard games, which will also be shown on Sky.

Horse racing: Horses don't celebrate Christmas, so there's no reason to give them any time off – although it's not clear what the jockeys make of their festive schedule. Nevertheless they will be out in force every day from Boxing Day to New Year.

Races from around the country will be shown on Channel 4, At The Races and Racing UK throughout the festive period. The big race is the George VI Chase at 3.10pm on Boxing Day at Kempton, which will be shown on Channel 4.

Darts: Finally, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without some arrows. The PDC World Darts Championship is already underway and the second round takes place after a  Christmas break on  27 December. The tournament is being shown on Sky Sports and the final is on 4 January.

That final weekend of the holidays also sees the start of the BDO World Darts Championships, which will be shown on the BBC and BT Sport. 

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