Category: athletics

In search of John Graham Chambers: sport’s serial law maker

By , 10th February 2016 09:30

On 10 February 1866, an article appeared on the front page of a new weekly newspaper welcoming the establishment of a new athletics club in London.

The Amateur Athletic Club wouldn’t be an athletic club as we would understand the term today.   It’s “object” was to establish “a ground at which numerous competitions in Amateur Athletic Sports and Foot Races may take place.”  It was also intended that as soon as funding allowed, club members would be able to enjoy the use of “a Club House, Gymnasium, Racquet Courts, Swimming Bath &c.”.

The AAC saw itself assuming the same role in athletics “that the Jockey Club holds toward racing or the Marylebone Club towards cricketers.”  One of its earliest resolutions was to organise “an Annual Champion Meeting for Athletic Sports on the day before the Boat race between Oxford and Cambridge”.

Land_And_Water_Masthead

Appearing in just the third issue of Land and Water, the article represents something of a landmark in the history of organised sport.  The article’s author was John Graham Chambers, then 23 years of age and a recent graduate from Cambridge University. A double rowing blue and former president of Cambridge University Boat Club, Chambers had also been one of the instigators of the first Inter-Varsity athletics match in 1864.

Although his personal interest wasn’t declared in the article, Chambers – who would later become editor of Land and Water – was deeply involved in establishing the Amateur Athletic Club. He was appointed to the working committee and would become the general manager of the Club’s grounds, once they had been secured.

Land_and_Water

Chambers’ leading article from Vol I, No.3 of Land and Water, 10 February 1866

He was one of the first to write a rule-book for athletics.  A contemporary at Cambridge and close friend of the Marquess of Queensberry, he was the principle author of the eponymous rules of boxing.  He was part of a group that revised rowing’s rules of racing and also took an interest in the rules of billiards.  As a member of a sub-committee of Stewards, he devised a management structure for Henley Royal Regatta that was later adopted by de Coubertin for the International Olympic Committee.

As well as the first national championships in athletics, Chambers would also stage the first boxing tournaments under the Queensberry rules and some of the earliest track cycling races – when the only bikes were penny farthings.  He would also host the second F.A. Cup Final.

Chambers’ name crops up in all sorts of sporting histories of the 1860s and 1870s but the numerous strands of his own story don’t appear to have been pulled together.

His involvement in sport touches on a number of sporting and societal themes that resonate loudly 150 years later:

  • Governance of sport and governing bodies
  • Betting and its threat to the integrity of sport
  • The close relationship between sport and the media
  • Accessibility and inclusivity
  • Economics and sustainability of sporting venues
  • The influence of Old Etonians
  • Full beards being fashionable!

In his personal life, Chambers missed out on what would have been a substantial inheritance – due to the illegitimacy of his father.  As it happened, he only survived his father by a year: even by Victorian standards, his death at the age of just 40, must be considered premature.  If histories are written by the winners, perhaps Chambers’ story has not been told because he died too young to write it himself.

I’m already indebted to several historians – some professional and others enthusiastic amateurs like myself – who have provided leads, tips, advice and encouragement.  If any readers have come across any other references to Chambers, please share them with me by leaving a comment.

Thanks.

Oarsmen who were Founding Fathers of Football

By , 19th October 2013 11:31
3 Kings Bench Walk, FA, Morley

3 Kings Bench Walk – the office of Ebenezer Cobb Morley’s legal practice

UPDATED 21 October 2013

26 October 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Football Association at the Freemason’s Tavern, Great Queen Street, London.

On 30 April 2013, the FA launched a campaign to trace the descendants of those who were present at that inaugural meeting – the Founding Father’s of football.  They published a list of eight men.  Seven had been elected as the original officers at that inaugural meeting. Charles Alcock rose to prominence shortly after.  On 21 October 2013, the eight were commemorated with a plaque at Wembley.  Three of the eight were oarsmen.

Further research by Scottish sports historian Andy Mitchell reveals that five of the fifteen men known to have been present in October 1863 had a rowing connection.

Ebenezer Cobb Morley was born in Hull on 16 August 1831, the son of another Ebenezer Morley, a Congregationalist minister. He was baptised at his

father’s Holborn Street Chapel.  Local press reports suggest Morley Senior was a leading figure in the British Schools movement in the Hull area.

Little is known about the younger Morley’s education but he isn’t believed to have attended public school.  He trained in Hull as a solicitor, qualifying in 1854 and at some point, he moved to London where he took chambers at 3 King’s Bench Walk, Temple.

Where and when Ebenezer took up rowing isn’t clear.  Perhaps it was when he moved to Barnes in 1858 where he lived at 26 The Terrace overlooking Barnes Bridge and what is now Thames   Tradesman Rowing Club. He joined London Rowing Club and threw himself whole-heartedly into the club and the sport.

Various episodes of his rowing career are captured in Chris Dodd’s 2006 history of London Rowing Club Water boiling aft.  He joined the committee at London in 1860.  He founded Barnes & Mortlake Regatta in 1862 and served as Regatta Secretary until 1880.  He became Hon Solicitor of London in 1862 and appears to have provided legal advice to the club for the rest of his life.

According to Water Boiling Aft, in May 1863 just six months before the founding of the FA, he rowed to his home town of Hull from London with three other London members, The journey, which traversed the canal network to the Trent, Ouse & Humber, totalled 300 Miles and 148 locks.  In 1864 he rowed at 2 for London in a heat of the Grand at Henley.

In 1865, Morley was elected to the 12-strong London’s Badge Committee which oversaw training, coaching and crew preparation.

He acted as starter for the London Rowing Club Athletic Sports held at Lord Ranelagh’s Beaufort House on 17 February 1866. Sporting Life reported a crowd of more than 1000.   He would also officiate at varsity athletics meetings held on Boat Race day.

London Rowing Club

London Rowing Club HQ – owned by the London Boat House Company Ltd

In 1870, he presumably handled the incorporation of the London Boat House Company which protects the ownership of London’s HQ to this day.  He certainly witnessed the signatures of the original directors of the company.

So with all of this going on, the question arises, how did he get involved in creating the world’s most popular sport?

Local forms of football had been played in villages and towns across the country for centuries, often on holy days such as Shrove Tuesday or Good Friday. A handful are still played today.

Pupils at many public schools developed their own versions of football adapted to their local environments.   For many schoolboys, football was an expression of their rejection of the authority of their schools. Progressive head masters recognised that organised sport opened up opportunities to counter reshape this culture.  It also chimed with growing emphasis on the fully rounded individual and the concept of “muscular Christianity”.

As pupils from this period started to move on to university they discovered that differences in rules meant games were largely restricted to groups of old-boys from a particular school.

At Cambridge in 1848, there was an early attempt at devising a compromise set of rules by which old-boys from all schools could play. These “Cambridge Rules” were updated in 1856 by a group of undergraduates that included old-boys from Eton, Harrow, Shrewsbury, Rugby and the University including the Old Etonian H. Snow – who had raced at 7 in that year’s victorious Boat Race Crew.  The Cambridge Rules were updated again in October 1863 shortly before the meeting at the Freemasons’ Tavern.

Ebenezer Morley’s recorded football history starts when he founded Barnes Football Club in 1862.  The club was based at Lime Fields, a short walk from his riverside home.

The correspondence pages of the burgeoning sporting press had been debating the rules of football for some years.  In 1863, Morley himself wrote to Bell’s Life to propose a meeting with the objective of “…bringing about a definite code of laws for the regulation and adoption of the various clubs which indulge in this exciting and health promising winter pastime.”

A meeting was convened at Freemason’s Tavern on 26 October 1863.  13 clubs from the London area were represented but Charterhouse was the only major public school to attend. 11 of the clubs joined the Football Association formed at the meeting.

Morley was elected as the first secretary, a position he held for three years until 1866.

The FA’s first rule book was developed over the course of five meetings up to the end of 1863.  There were protracted discussions over the extent to which the ball could be handled and whether hacking should be permitted.   Morley was firmly in the camp that wished to limit handling and outlaw hacking.  His view was that, “If we have hacking, no one who has arrived at the age of discretion will play at football, and it will be left entirely to the school boys.”

Influenced by the 1863 Cambridge Rules, the game defined by the first set of FA rules was still something of a hybrid that retained more handling of the ball than allowed today.  It was the solicitor Morley who minuted the meetings and drafted the first FA rules.  The minute book, in Morley’s long hand, is on public display at the British Library until 17 December 2013.

The first “official” match played under FA rules was between a President’s Side (selected by Arthur Pember, an investigative journalist) and a Secretary’s Side selected by Morley.  The match was played in Battersea Park on 9 January 1864.  The Presidents team won 2-0.

1866 saw the first match involving a representative FA team – against Sheffield FC. Morley scored the first goal.  Sheffield is recognised by FIFA as being the oldest surviving football club in the world having been founded in 1857.

This match was significant for a number of reasons. The FA wore white shirts – setting the precedent for later England sides and the match was played under FA rules. The match duration was fixed for 90 minutes and the ball chosen was Lillywhite’s No 5 – the first recorded instance of either duration or ball size being specified. Both became football fundamentals.

At the 1867 AGM, Morley stood down as Secretary and became President of the FA. He was succeeded as secretary by Charles Alcock who has generally usurped Morley as “the father of football” in most football histories.

As president, it was Morley who presented the Cup to the victorious Wanderers side after the first FA Cup final in 1872.

Morley remained president of the FA until 1874 when the oarsman fades out of the history of football.  However, he remained involved with London RC for the rest of his life.  He died at his home in Barnes on 20 November 1924 at the age of 93.

The second oarsman at the inaugural meeting of the FA was Herbert Thomas Steward.  His involvement in the FA appears to have been short-lived but he was unconsciously involved in creating another structure that has enormous influence in world sport today.

Steward was born on 9 November 1838 in Westminster.  He was the son of Thomas Francis Steward, a maths teacher at Westminster School. Census returns suggest he lived in Deans Yard, within the school grounds, in 1841, 51, 61 and 1871 by which time he was 32 and his mother was widowed. Steward attended Westminster School as a pupil.

Growing up in Deans Yard, he would probably have witnessed games of Westminster’s version of football which has been described as “A particularly rough dribbling game” and allowed players to catch the ball and then kick it out of their hands. Running with the ball, however, was outlawed. The 150th anniversary football match between Westminster and Charterhouse was played on 18 September 2013.

Steward first comes to prominence in 1863.  At the Freemason’s Tavern, Steward represented Crusaders FC.  Like most of the founding members of the FA, it was a club that drew together old boys from a number of public schools.  The Club quickly resigned from the FA because other schools weren’t participating – many commentators at the time were convinced the FA would fail without the support of the major public schools and their old-boy clubs. Crusaders would re-join some years later.

Earlier the same year he had been elected as the first Captain of Leander, the exclusive rowing club, serving until 1865.  He was Honorary Secretary of the Club between 1866 and 1879 and both Captain & Secretary of Leander in 1868. He became a Steward of Henley Royal Regatta in 1879.

In 1881 he was a member of a sub-committee of the Henley Stewards that was asked to consider new governance and financial structures to secure the long-term future of Henley Royal.  It was this sub-committee that proposed the creation of the Committee of Management.  The proposal was endorsed by the Stewards but only fully implemented in 1885.

Steward was elected President of Leander in 1892, Chairman of Henley Royal in 1894, and achieved a triple crown in 1897 by becoming Chairman of the ARA (which had been founded in 1882).

In 1888, three years after the implementation of the Henley Royal constitution that Steward had helped to formulate, Baron Pierre De Coubertin attended the regatta.

De Coubertin described the structure of the self-selecting group of Stewards, the smaller Committee of Management and its Chairman as “three concentric circles” made up of “those who were deeply committed, those who could be educated to the cause, and those whose position and influence could be useful.” This model was adopted as the basis of the IOC constitution at its foundation on 23 June 1894.  (Arthur Oliver Villiers Russell, the Second Baron Ampthill  was one of the original members of the IOC.  He had been a member of the 1890 and 1891 Oxford blue boats, won the 1891 Grand and was a Henley Steward between 1894 and 1935.)

Leander Henley

Leander Club, Henley – designed by HT Steward

Professionally, Steward was an architect and surveyor.  In 1904, he would be President of the Surveyor’s Institution.  He designed Leander’s Henley clubhouse that opened in 1897.

HT Steward had four children. Both his sons would be elected Stewards of Henley Royal: Herbert Arthur was born 1878, elected Steward in 1913 and died 1948; Clifford Thomas was born 1881, elected Steward 1909, died 1943.  Herbert Arthur’s son, & HT’s grandson, CTS Steward was also elected a Steward and served 1971-1981.

The FA published a profile of HT, as one of the Founding Fathers, on its website in August 2013 which appeared to have overlooked CTS Steward. It concluded that HT had no direct descendants beyond a daughter of Herbert Arthur who died having had no children in 1861.

The other oarsmen present at the birth of the FA were Thomas Dyson Gregory (London RC & Treasurer of Barnes & Mortlake Regatta), George Twizell Wawn (London) and Theodore Bell (Kingston RC).

(Based on notes prepared for a presentation to the Rowing History Forum, at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames, 11 October 2013)

Guardian Writer’s Relay – Day 51: honouring St Albans champion of golf

By , 8th July 2012 09:24

The Guardian has been celebrating the Olympic Torch Relay with its own online writer’s relay. Each day, guest writers are asked to describe what it means to them to see the flame visiting their own home town.

For the Torch Relay’s journey through St Albans on Sunday 8 July, SportingLandmarks was asked to contribute.

Update: On 27 July, the day of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, the Guardian summed-up what turned-out to be a great project.

Will London 2012 give Britain’s sporting heritage its Moment to Shine?

By , 21st December 2011 13:27

The ‘towns on route’ have been announced and 6800 torch bearers have been unveiled. The complex planning process for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relays is entering its final stages. Over the next couple of months, the planning team must agree the street-level routes with local authorities across the country. But will the organisers miss the chance to create a legacy that would benefit the nations tourism industry beyond 2012?

The curtain-raiser to the Olympics since the infamous Berlin Games of 1936, the Olympic Torch Relay was transformed into a major sponsorship property by the Los Angeles Organising Committee in 1984. LA’s controversial ‘Youth Legacy Kilometer’ initiative also pioneered the idea of torch-bearers being nominated by the public: nominations were invited from individuals or companies who made a $3,000 donation to a special youth sport fund. Since LA, the fund-raising element has been dropped but the operational model, with incremental refinements, has been passed on in relay from one Games to the next.

LOCOG first outlined its vision for the Relay to “connect people to the Olympic Games, its heroes and its spirit,” in May 2010. “The Olympic Torch Relay will bring the 2012 Games to people’s doorsteps and showcase the best of the UK from dynamic urban areas to places of outstanding natural beauty and sporting and cultural landmarks.” To their credit, the LOCOG planning team appears to have bettered its initial target of the Relay route passing “within a one hour journey time” of 95% of the British population.

LOCOG’s initial Relay announcement bore an almost uncanny resemblance to the equivalent announcements from Vancouver, Beijing, Turin, Athens, Salt Lake and Sydney and even the Commonwealth Games Baton Relays of Delhi, Melbourne and Manchester. Strict observance of the established operational model appears to be stifling originality to the extent that sporting relays have become formulaic.

In their efforts to capture the public imagination and differentiate one Relay from the next, recent organisers have resorted to uplifting taglines. The invitation to “Light the Passion, Share the Dream“, was possibly misconstrued by the demonstrators that were attracted to various international legs of Beijing’s relay. London positions the Relay as “A moment to shine”.

Sadly, LOCOG appears to be in danger missing a trick. Britain’s unique sporting heritage gives LOCOG the opportunity to give the 2012 Relay a very distinctive feel and re-connect it, and the watching public, with the origins of many modern sports.

History is important to the International Olympic Committee. The Olympic Museum in Lausanne is currently the only permanent publicly accessible manifestation of the Olympic Movement. It is in the midst of a £30 million refurbishment.

DeCoubertin, who was inspired to re-establish the Olympics by William Penny Brookes, an octogenarian GP from Much Wenlock in Shropshire, once said that “holding an Olympic Games means evoking history”.

It is the century of iconic sporting moments and the spirits of athletes like Spiridon Louis, Dorando Pietri, Harold Abrahams, Jessie Owens, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Ogla Korbut, Mark Spitz, Kathy Freeman, Steve Redgrave that underpin and sustain the Olympic brand. It’s the heritage that keep the IOC’s corporate sponsors and the world’s media coming back for more, decade after decade.

Without this heritage, a latter-day de Coubertin would find it impossible to persuade a single country, let alone a single city, to invest the billions required to host simultaneous world championships for so many different sports.

When inviting the world’s athletes to come to London during the Year-to-Go celebrations in Trafalgar Square on 27 July, IOC President Jacques Rogge talked of the Games “coming to the nation that invented modern sport and the concept of fair play.”

The IOC website acknowledges how Britain created, codified or popularised 15 out of the 25 current summer Olympic sports. Thanks to Scotland’s role as the home of both golf and rugby sevens, the tally will rise to 17 at Rio 2016. It’s an unfortunate oversight that the Relay route bypasses the birthplace of sevens at Melrose.

In recent years, history has been out of fashion within Britain’s educational establishment. In spite of this, the subject has remained popular with the public and continues to attract respectable audiences on television, even in our multi-channel age. Television historians have been elevated into the ranks of celebrity. Given the chance, history can still engage and excite school children – especially when there are local and sporting dimensions.

The final presentations to the 2005 Olympic Congress that secured the Games for London were littered with references to Britain’s sporting and Olympic pedigrees. However, LOCOG’s enthusiasm for history appears to have waned.

Yes, LOCOG did name their official mascots after the aforementioned Much Wenlock and the Buckinghamshire birthplace of Paralympic sport at Stoke Mandeville. But, beyond including these two towns and a handful of other sporting venues in the Relay, references to sporting heritage have largely disappeared from more recent Relay announcements. The only reference to “heritage” in the towns-on-route announcement relates to one of the presenting partners.

While retaining the ambition to make the 2012 Games themselves “historic”, LOCOG has placed modernity at the heart of its brand values. Unfortunately, to its international audiences, “modern London” has taken on new meaning since the summer riots of 2011.

Places all over the country have significant associations with the development of sport. Incorporating just a selection of these places into the detailed street-level route could provide a narrative thread running through the 2012 Torch Relay that would demonstrate to the nation and the wider world how deeply sport is embedded into the DNA and landscape of these islands.

This needn’t be chauvinistic. The Relay provides a unique opportunity to celebrate the places all over the country and the diverse, if sometimes flawed, characters that helped shape world sport. A deeper understanding of our own sporting heritage would help prevent future embarrassments like the FA’s failed World Cup bid.

Examples are many, varied and often surprising. The magnificently named Major Walter Clopton Wingfield reputedly demonstrated lawn tennis for the first time at Nantclwyd Hall near Wrexham. John Graham Chambers, who drew up boxing’s Queensbury Rules, and was the driving force behind the first national championships in modern athletics, was born in Llanelli. Matthew Webb, the man who arguably did more to popularise swimming than any other person by conquering the English Channel unaided, was born in Dawley, just a few miles from Much Wenlock. He learned to swim in the River Severn in the shadow of the famous Ironbridge.

Charles Alcock who conceived the FA Cup and international football and also hosted the original Ashes cricket test match in his capacity as secretary of Surrey CCC, was born in Sunderland.

The story of Harry Clasper challenges the stereotypical perception of rowing as the preserve of public schools, Oxbridge and the Thames. At different times a miner, ships carpenter, wherryman and publican, Clasper became a folk hero on the Tyne racing against professional watermen from the capital. He also revolutionised racing boat design, introducing keel-less hulls and outriggers – the forerunners of the boats that will race at Eton next year. More than 100,000 Geordies are reported to have turned-out for his funeral in 1870.

The Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch Relay was instrumental in transforming scepticism among Australians outside the host city into widespread enthusiasm nationwide. In Britain, many who live outside the M25 tire of the continual, often subliminal, assertions of the cultural and economic superiority of London. Actively celebrating the sporting contributions of the communities along its route could help protect the Relay and the Games from such cynicism.

It’s also a sad reality that Torch Relays rarely generate much media coverage outside the host nation. The exceptions are as they enter the host city towards the end of their journeys or when they attract protesters.

As the 2012 Relay unfolds, a hundred or more overseas teams will be arriving in the UK for pre-Games training camps. Involving some of these visiting athletes as torch bearers at landmarks associated with their own sports would give the international media the stories that would justify covering the event. When even the Economist is questioning the tourism benefits of the Games, extending the world’s gaze beyond London could help transform the nation’s sporting heritage into a lasting sports tourism legacy that benefits the whole country.

In her 2011 RTS Huw Weldon Lecture, Bettany Hughes said, “It is the purpose of history to allow us to look confidently into the future.” Her observation that “History is essential to nourish the next generation,” echoed the aspirations that Seb Coe had for sport when he addressed the IOC in Singapore in 2005. Reconnecting the British people with their own local sporting heritage could give a boost to another struggling 2012 legacy programme by inspiring more people to take up sport themselves.

LOCOG’s own campaign to encourage the public to nominate unsung heroes as torch bearers was branded “Moment to Shine”. London 2012 still has the opportunity to give Britain’s unique and fascinating sporting heritage its own moment to shine.

The All-Male SPOTY 2011 nominees

By , 7th December 2011 00:02

BBC Sport opened a hornets nest when it managed to produce an all-male shortlist for its 2011 Sports Personality of the Year Award. Chrissie Wellington, who secured her fourth Ironman triathlon world title in October 2011, provided one of the most thoughtful critiques of the nomination process, the underlying gender-bias of Britain’s sporting media and its domination by football and a handful of other sports.

The Sports Journalists’ Association has highlighted that its members have a rich selection of female British world champions to choose between when casting their votes for its own Sportswoman of the Year Award. The favourites for their Sportsman of the Year Award closely resembles the SPOTY shortlist.


View SPOTY 2011 – the nominees in a larger map

In its annual effort to discern possible voting patterns, Sporting Landmarks has once again mapped the home towns of SPOTY nominees. All four home countries are represented in this year’s SPOTY shortlist and cycling’s road race world champion Mark Cavendish represents the Isle of Man for the third year running.

Once again Northern Ireland has two nominees who will be seeking to keep the trophy in the Province after AP McCoy’s victory last year. However not only will the loyalties of Northern Ireland voters be split two ways between Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke, Hemel Hempstead’s Luke Donald will also be competing for votes from golf.

Both ‘Londoners’ were actually born in Africa. Mo Farah, atheltics’ 5000m World Champion was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, although he moved to the East End as a boy. He is still affiliated with Newham & Essex Beagles according to UK Athletics although his training base is currently in Portland Oregon in the USA. Andrew Strauss arrived in England aged six having been born in Johannesburg, South Africa: Lords has been taken as the spiritual home for the Middlesex and England cricketer on the map.

Dai Greene from Llanelli will have to compete with Farah for the athletics vote but should have the first call on votes from Wales. Andrew Stauss will need to see-off Gloucester’s Alastair Cook for the support of cricketers.

Andy Murray looks to have a clear run at both Scottish and tennis votes while Amir Khan is the only boxer and the only finalist from Northern England.

The 2010 results also suggest that non of last year’s contenders – or their supporters – managed to fully exploit twitter to mobilise support even though nine of the ten finalists were tweeters. Graeme Swann had more than 116,000 followers in December 2010 but only came 9th with 13,767 votes. The winner, AP McCoy, secured 293,152 votes – nearly 42 percent of the total poll – but had only 971 twitter followers – the second lowest. Will social media be any more influential in 2011?

Arthur Wharton – the first black professional footballer

By , 29th March 2011 18:11

First black professional footballerGhana becomes the 84th country to play a football international against England today. A few days ago, Henry Winter, the Telegraph’s excellent football correspondent, profiled Arthur Wharton the first black professional footballer in England and probably the world. Wharton was born in Jamestown in the Gold Coast – what is now Ghana – on 28 October 1865.

The son of the first Afro-Caribbean to be ordained as a Wesleyan Methodist missionary in Africa, Arthur was educated in England with the intention of becoming a minister or teacher.

His remarkable sporting career has been chronicled by Football Unites Racism Divides. As an amateur footballer, Arthur played for Cannock & White Cross FC, Darlington, representative teams in Newcastle and Durham, Preston North End – where he appeared in the 1887 FA Cup Semi-Final – and Sheffield United.

Wharton’s talents were not confined to football. In July 1886, competing for Birchfield Harriers, Wharton won the 100 yards at the AAAs championship at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea. His time of exactly 10 seconds was later ratified as the first world record in athletics. In 1888, just as the Football League was being established, he achieved success in pedestrianism – professional running – winning the prestigious September Sprint Handicap at the Queen’s Ground, Sheffield.

He is also known to have played rugby at Heckmondwyke and was also a professional cricketer at various times, playing for the Rotherham clubs of Greaseborough and Rawmarsh, the Borough Police and, later, Stalybridge.

He became the first black professional footballer when he signed for Rotherham Town in September 1889.

He supplemented his footballing income as licensee of the Albert Tavern, at 53 Old Street, Masbrough (where he was living on census day 1891) and the Plough Inn, Greasborough, in 1892.

He was also to play for Sheffield United between 1894-6, becoming the first black professional to play in the top flight of English football in a match against Sunderland in Februray 1895. Later, he went on to play for Stalybridge Rovers, Ashton North End and finally, in 1901, Stockport County. His 1901 home was at 158 Old Street, Ashton-Under-Lyne. He retired from professional sport in 1902. Judging by Google Street Map, Arthur’s 1891 and 1901 homes stood in areas that have been significantly redeveloped in recent years.

From 1913, Wharton worked at the Yorkshire Main Colliery at Edlington near Doncaster. He died, after a long illness on 13 December 1930 at 54 Staveley Street, Edlington.

For 67 years, his grave was unmarked. Arthur had married Emma Lister on 21 September 1890 but the couple had no children. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Emma may have felt disinclined to erect a headstone on the grounds that Arthur was believed to have fathered her own sister’s daughters Minnie and Nora.

Thanks to the efforts of Football Unites, which is based in Sheffield, and the generosity of the Professional Footballers’ Association and other benefactors, the last resting place of the first professional footballer is now commemorated.

A campaign to erect a statue of Arthur in Darlington received a donation of £20,000 in October 2010.

Update:

Arthur’s statue was unveiled at St George’s Park, the FA’s national training centre on Thursday 16 October 2014.

BBC SPOTY 2010 – the nominees

By , 15th December 2010 23:17

Last year SportingLandmarks mapped the home-towns of the nominees for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year and speculated on the extent to which block votes might influence the result.

Unlike 2009, all members of the 2010 shortlist were actually born in the British Isles.  While Northern Ireland will celebrate two nominees this year, Scotland and Wales – which provided the winners in 2008 and 2009 respectively – have none.  David Haye is the only Londoner – compared with three in 2010 – and Mark Cavendish flies the flag for the Isle of Man for the second year running.


View SPOTY 2010 – The Nominees in a larger map

If block votes are significant, the psephologists will be interested to see how the golfing vote will be divided by Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell.

Last year, SportingLandmarks also pondered the importance of social media in mobilising the electorate.  This year, only Amy Williams has no obvious twitter presence.  Tom Daley and Jessica Ennis both have more than one ‘official’ twitter profile while @jessicaennisftw which appeared shortly after @SporLand tweeted about SPOTY last year has been resurrected to renew their campaign for a Jess victory in 2010.

If the number of twitter followers is significant, a quick survey – undertaken on 15 December – suggests Graeme Swann looks to be in poll position to pick-up the trophy. Ryan Giggs secured the 2009 title with 151, 842 votes – a 29.4% share of the total.  Swann currently has approaching 120,000 followers and the vote takes place in the middle of the third Ashes test in Perth at a time when the nation’s enthusiasm for cricket is high.

The SPOTY 2010 nominees and their twitter followers:

Graeme Swann, cricketer.  Born: Northampton, 24 March 1979 @swannyg66 (116, 197 followers)

David Haye, boxer.  Born: Bermondsey, 13 October 1990  @mrdavidhaye (81,794)

Lee Westwood, golfer. Born: Worksop, 24 April 1973  @westwoodlee (64,563)

Graeme McDowell, golfer.  Born: Portrush, 30 July 1979  @graeme_mcdowell (62,267)

Tom Daley, diver. Born: Plymouth, 21 May 1994  @tomdaley1994 (29,228) @TomDaleytv (1,327)

Jessica Ennis, heptathlete. Born: Sheffield, 28 January 1986  @j_ennis (19,343) @JessicaEnnisNet (1,378) @JessicaEnnisftw (307)

Mark Cavendish, cyclist. Born: Douglas, Isle of Man,  21 May 1985  @cavendishmark (17,649)

Phil Taylor, darts player. Born: Burslem, 13 August 1960  @PhilDTaylor (8,112)

AP McCoy, National Hunt Jockey. Born: Moneyglass, 4 May 1974  @apmccoy (971)

Amy Williams, Bob Skelton. Born: Cambridge, 29 September 1982  (not on twitter!)

SportingLandmarks forwarded some of SporLand’s #SP09 tweets Carl Doran, SPOTY’s editor last year. In his reply, Carl admitted that he was not, then, twitter-savvy.  However @BBCSPOTY is now live and promoting this year’s show: 888 followers as of 15 December.

London’s historic marathons

By , 24th April 2010 09:44

The London Marathon is now established as one of the world’s premiere elite marathons. It is also probably the biggest mass-participation sporting events on the planet as well as one of the most successful charitable fund-raising events.

Today’s London Marathon course starts in Blackheath, heads east through Charlton and Woolwich before turning west and passing the Cutty Sark in Greenwich at around 6½ miles. Crossing the River Thames at Tower Bridge, the course heads east as it passes half-way and loops around the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf before heading west again along The Highway and the Embankment to Parliament Square, Birdcage Walk to the finish in front of Buckingham Palace.  The event has transformed many of London’s iconic landmarks into sporting landmarks.

The finish has changed most over London’s near three-decades of city marathon history. The first London Marathon, held on 29 March 1981, finished on Constitution Hill between Green Park and Buckingham Palace.  From 1982 until 1993 the race finished on Westminster Bridge with the Houses of Parliament in the background. But in 1994 repair work to the bridge meant the finish line was moved to The Mall where it has been ever since.

Elsewhere, alterations have been surprisingly few.  In 2005 a cobbled area near the Tower of London – around 22 miles – was eliminated to the relief of elite and fun runners alike. The direction taken by runners around the Isle of Dogs between 14 and 21 miles switched from clockwise to anti-clockwise the same year.

In 2012, London’s third Olympic and first Paralympic Marathons will draw on the elite marathon expertise of the London Marathon organisers.  They will be hoping that they will be able to stage races as dramatic as the first two London Olympic Marathons: in both, the gold medal slipped from the grasp of the leading athlete between entering the stadium and reaching the finishing line.

1908

London’s first Olympic Marathon in 1908 was also historically significant in defining the 26 mile 385 yards / 41.195 km  distance that is now the standard.

The race started on the East Terrace of Windsor Castle from where the 55 competitors ran through Windsor town centre and across the Thames to Eton and then on to Slough.  The course then continued on to Uxbridge, Ickneham, Ruislip, Eastcote, Pinner, Harrow, Wembley, Harlesden, Willesden and Old Oak Common before crossing Wormwood Scrubs to reach the Anglo-French Exhibition Grounds and the White City Stadium.  Traveling along the route today, it is clear that today’s sprawling London suburbs were still very distinct villages in 1908, and much of the course would have had a distinctly rural feel.

The White City Stadium was the first stadium ever to be built specifically as the principal venue of an Olympic Games. It had a capacity of 150,000 or which 68,000 were seated but only 17,000 were protected from the elements. Incorporating a 1/3 mile running track, 660 yard banked cycle track and swimming pool, the Stadium was built by the organisers of the Anglo-French Exhibition in just 10 months.  In later life, White City was also a soccer World Cup venue, hosting the Uruguay v France match in the 1966 tournament.  The Stadium was demolished in 1985 and the site is now occupied by the BBC.

From Windsor to the stadium, the proposed 1908 course measured approximately 26 miles. On entering the stadium through entrance “QQ RR SS” in the south west corner, it was decided that the runners should turn left to run 385 yards around the track to the finish line immediately below the Royal Box.

Race day was 24 July.  The Games’ official report describes how the “close, warm, and muggy atmosphere of that summer afternoon, when the sun was deceptively strong and there was very little air,” was to have a profound impact on a race which started started at a brisk pace: the first mile was completed in just 5 minutes and 1 second.

With a dozen British entries, it was home athletes who made the early running.  Jack Price led the South African Charles Hefferon by 200 yards at half way – in Ruislip.  Frederick Lord, another Briton, in third place was “laboured in his action” just ahead of the Italian Dorando Pietri.

Hefferon took the lead at 15 miles and attempted to make a decisive break. Pietri closed on Hefferon in Old Oak Common Lane and passed the South African as they approached Wormwood Scrubs. However, Pietri’s push was too much and he was almost unconscious when he reached the track, turning right instead of left in his confusion before  collapsing.

In describing what rapidly became elevated to the status of legend, the official report says,

“As it was impossible to leave him there, for it looked as if he might die in the very presence of the Queen and that enormous crowd, the doctors and attendants rushed to his assistance. When he was slightly resuscitated the excitement of his compatriots was so intense that the officials did not put him on an ambulance and send him out, as they would no doubt have done under less agitating circumstances. The first fall and the first assistance rendered had, if it had been only realised, disqualified the Italian for the prize.”

Eventually, Pietri struggled to his feet and staggered to the tape in a time of 2 hours 54 minutes 46.4 seconds.  Shortly afterwards, the American Johnny Hayes reached the finish without assistance in 2 hours 55 minutes 18.4 seconds.  An official objection from the US team was eventually upheld and Hayes was awarded the gold medal.

Hefferon had hung on for silver and Joseph Forshaw, another American, took bronze.  Queen Alexandra, who had witnessed the drama from the Royal Box, presented Pietri with a gold cup.

The events of London 1908 captured the public imagination, established the marathon as the ultimate sporting challenge and paved the way for a flurry of races between the leading protagonists over the now official distance which could be considered the forebears of modern city marathons.

Excluding the disqualified Pietri, only 27 of the 55 athletes finished the 1908 marathon. Given the sultry conditions, perhaps the instructions to competitors contributed to the high attrition: “Every competitor must wear complete clothing from the shoulder to the knees (i.e. jersey sleeved to the elbows and loose drawers with slips). Any competitor will be excluded from taking part in the race unless properly attired.”

Other aspects of the race would not be unfamiliar to modern marathon runners.  As “official caterer” the Oxo Company provided refreshments.  Rather than mineral water or energy drinks, 1908 athletes were offered an “Oxo Athlete’s Flask containing Oxo for immediate use” while hot or cold Oxo or Oxo and Soda were distributed at feeding stations along the route. Rice pudding, raisins, bananas, soda and milk. and stimulants were also available “in cases of collapse” while “eau de Cologne and sponges can be had for use of competitors from the Oxo representatives…”

Pietri’s exploits are commemorated today in Dorando Close which skirts the BBC White City complex.  The location of the finish line of the old White City Stadium is marked on the site.
View London’s historic marathons in a larger map

Update: In his blog which examines sporting myths, US blogger Brian Cronin explores the connection between the British Royal Family and the official marathon distance.

1948

When the Olympics were resurrected after World War 2, the 1948 Games were centred on the Empire Stadium, Wembley.  For the marathon, the organisers devised an out-and-back route that took runners north from Wembley in order to avoid the many roads that were still bomb-damaged in inner London.  The course also climbed more than 300 feet as it progressed from Middlesex into Hertfordshire.

The Marathon Race on the final afternoon of the track and field events – a warm, humid and windy day – was curiously reminiscent of the Pietri race forty years earlier.

Around six miles, Etienne Gailly, a 25-year old Belgian who had escaped from occupation during the war, eventually reached Britain and joined Belgrave Harriers, moved to the front of the field of forty-one.  At 15 km. he had a lead of 14 seconds and extended this to half a minute by 20 km. At 30 km. Gailly was 53 seconds ahead of the Argentinian Delfo Cabrera but five kilometres later Choi Yoon-chil of Korea had moved into a 28-second lead over Cabrera, with Gailly another three seconds behind.  Choi dropped out with injury around 38 km.  With 5,000 metres to go, Cabrera was leading, just five seconds ahead of Gailly.

It was Gailly who entered the Stadium first “exhausted and hardly able to drag one foot after the other”  yet needing to complete a little over a lap of the track to secure the Olympic title.  Within a few seconds, Cabrera entered the stadium and had no difficulty in overhauling the “practically insensible” Belgian to snatch the gold in a time of 2 hours 34 minutes 51.6 seconds.  Welshman Tom Richards was the third to enter the Stadium and he too had little difficulty passing Gaily taking the silver in 2 hours 35 minutes 7.6 seconds.  The gallant Gaily held on to finish third in 2 hours 35 minutes 33.6 seconds, just over half a minute ahead of the South African Johannes Coleman, who had finished sixth in the 1936 Berlin Games.  In one of the closest Olympic Marathon finishes of all time, the first four athletes were running their final laps of the stadium at the same time.

The Six Nations and the origins international rugby

By , 11th March 2010 23:33

Each spring, Murrayfield, Twickenham, the Aviva Stadium on Dublin’s Lansdowne Road and the Millennium Stadium become places of pilgrimage for rugby enthusiasts.  By drawing together the first four rugby playing countries, the Six Nations maintains a tangible and continuing link to the origins of the international game.

Today’s landmark venues are among 35 grounds in the British Isles that have hosted matches as the competition has evolved from ad-hoc fixtures in the 1870s to become the Home International Championship – considered to have started in 1883.  France officially joined the championship in 1910 before Five Nations became Six at the start of the third millennium.

A common characteristic of many of the earliest international rugby venues was that they were established cricket grounds. On closer examination, this is not so surprising.  By the second half of the 18th century, cricket was widely played and many of the earliest rugby clubs were set-up by cricketers looking to keep themselves occupied during the winter months.

England have played4/5/6 Nations matches at some 15 grounds; Ireland 9, Wales 7 and Scotland 6.

View The Six Nations and the origins international rugby in a larger map

(As this post spans 140 years of international rugby history, and approaching 700 matches, its quite long! It’s divided into sections for Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, so if you’re interested in a particular country, scroll down.)

Scotland

Just as they were to invent Rugby 7s in 1883, the Scots can arguably take credit for inventing international rugby: it was Scotland who issued the invitation for an England team to play in the world’s first rugby international.   The match  was staged on the cricket pitch of the Edinburgh Academy at Raeburn Place on 27 March 1871.  Angus Buchanan claimed the distinction of becoming the first international try scorer in helping Scotland to victory by a goal and a try to a try.

Scotland’s second home international, again against England on 3 March 1873, was played at the home of the West of Scotland Cricket Club at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow.  The match ended in a scoreless draw.

Scotland then reverted to Raeburn Place until growing friction with their Edinburgh Academy hosts prompted a search for a new ground.  The last match at the birthplace of international rugby was a 6-0 victory over Ireland on 2 March 1895.

On 14 March 1896, Scotland defeated England 11-0 at Hampden Park, Glasgow.  The second of three grounds to bear the name, it became Cathkin Park when its owners, Queen’s Park FC, moved to the current Hampden Park in 1903.  (The Scottish rugby team played South Africa at the new Hampden Park in 1908.)

In 1897, the Scottish Football Union acquired land at Inverleith, Edinburgh to make Scotland the first national rugby team to own its own ground. While Inverleith was being developed, Scotland played two matches at Powderhall Stadium in Edinburgh, an established “pedestrianism” venue.  An 8-3 victory over Ireland on 20 February 1897 was followed by a 3-3 draw with England on 12 March 1898.  (Between 1977 and its closure and demolition 1995, Powderhall was home to the Edinburgh Monarchs speedway team.)

Ireland became the first visitors to the world’s first purpose-built international rugby stadium at Inverleith on 18 February 1899, defeating Scotland by 3-9.  After the First World War, limited space and run-down facilities at Inverleith prompted the SFU to search for a new home . Murray’s Field was eventually purchased from the Edinburgh Polo Club at the end of 1922.  The last match at Inverleith was played on Burns Day – 25 January – 1925 and ended in a 25-4 victory over France.  Today, Stewart’s Melville College, and associated clubs, continue to play rugby at Inverleith.

The first match at Murrayfield on on 21 March 1925 saw the lead change several times before Scotland eventually ran-out 14-11 winners over England to secure their first Grand Slam.

England

Although Twickenham has been England’s primary home for a century, of the nations who strive for the Triple Crown, England has had the most “home” grounds.

An English cricket ground hosted the world’s second rugby international.  The return fixture against Scotland on 5 February 1872 was played at the Kennington Oval and ended in a victory for England by a goal, a drop goal and 2 tries to a drop goal.  The first FA Cup final was staged at the same venue a month later.

The Oval hosted a total of seven rugby internationals, including Ireland’s debut on 15 February 1875 – won by England by 1 goal, 1 drop goal, and a try to nil – and the first international rugby match between teams of 15 players – again from England and Ireland – on 5 February 1877.  Until then rugby had been 20-a-side.

The ground of Manchester FC, one of the oldest still surviving rugby clubs, in Whalley Range was the venue for England’s home victory against Scotland by 2 goals and 3 tries to 1 goal on 28 February 1880.  Walley Range hosted a total of seven England matches up to 1892.  According to the 1889 Ordnance Survey Map for Moss Side, the site is now occupied by present day King’s Road, Powell Street and Alphonsus Street off the Upper Chorlton Road.

Wales’ international debut was on Mr Richardson’s field, Blackheath on 19 February 1881.  It was a baptism by fire for the Welsh as England won by 7 goals, 1 drop goal and 6 tries to nil!  Blackheath holds a unique position in the history of rugby.  A founder member of the Football Association, Blackheath withdrew in protest at the FA’s preference for the Cambridge rules  of football, which prohibited carrying the ball, and its less tolerant attitude towards hacking.  Blackheath then went on to become a founder member of the RFU.

Prior to the 1902 schism that ultimately led to the creation of Rugby League, Yorkshire was a rugby stronghold.  England played a number of matches in the county including three in Leeds on three different grounds.   The first was on 5 January 1884 when Wales were beaten by a goal and 2 tries to 1 goal at Cardigan Fields.  The pitches are now occupied by the Leeds Rugby Academy under the management of the Leeds Rugby Foundation.

In the same 1884 season, Scotland were entertained at the Rectory Field, Blackheath on 1 March.  A successful conversion separated the teams and gave victory to England by a goal to a try.

Between 1888 and 1889, the Home International Championship was reduced to a 3 Nation tournament after England declined to join the International Rugby Board which had been established to overcome differences in interpretation of the laws of the game.  When England returned to the fold in 1890, they chose Yorkshire for their first match playing Wales at the original Crown Flatt ground, on Leeds Road, Earlesheaton in Dewsbury.  The match was notable as Wales’ first victory against England – by a single point scored by a Dewsbury player William “Buller” Staden – to nil.  Crown Flatt was replaced by housing after it was destroyed by arson in 1988. (Dewsbury Rams rugby league team play at the Tetley Stadium in Owl Lane which was initially referred to as the ‘new’ Crown Flatt Stadium when it was built in the early 1990s.)

Richmond Athletic Ground hosted England’s 3-9 defeat by Scotland on 7 March 1891.  The home of both Richmond FC and London Scottish, the Athletics Ground was also the venue for France’s first match in the British Isles – a 41-13 defeat at the hands of England on 5 January 1907.

England’s second match in Leeds, an 0-8 defeat by Scotland on 4 March 1893, was played at Headingley. Acquired by the Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Co from the Cardigan Estate in January 1889, Headingley was conceived as a multi-sport venue incorporating cricket and rugby pitches along with tennis courts, a bowling green, and a track for cycling and athletics around the cricket pitch.  Today, the ground is used by both codes of rugby: Leeds Rhinos for league and Leeds Carnegie for union. The Headingley test cricket ground is adjacent to the rugby ground.

The first publicly funded park in Britain, Birkenhead Park on the Wirral, hosted England’s 24-3 victory over Wales on 6 January 1894.

Ireland were the visitors for England’s third match in Leeds on 1 February 1896. Played at Meanwood Road, the Irish won 4-10.

The following year, Scotland suffered a second defeat in Manchester, by 12-3. The match, on 13 February 1897, was played in Fallowfield. The Fallowfield Stadium, which also incorporated an athletics track and velodrome, was also notable for having hosted the 1893 FA Cup Final, the first to be played outside London.  (Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Everton 1-0).  The stadium was acquired by Manchester University, demolished in 1994 and redeveloped as the Richmond Park hall of residence.

Gloucester’s Kingsholm hosted a Welsh victory over England by 3-13 on 6 January 1900.

The first of five internationals at Welford Road, Leicester, was England’s 6-3 victory over Ireland on 8 February 1902.  The 23-5 victory over Ireland on 10 February 1923 was the last England home fixture in the 4/5/6 Nations not to be played at Twickenham.

Wales’ made the short trip across the Severn Estuary to defeat England 18-28 at Ashton Gate, Bristol on 18 January 1908 in a match shrouded in thick fog.  The match was the last of five caps for James Peters, the first black player to represent England.  Although he was then playing for Plymouth, Peters’ rugby career had started at Bristol FC.

Twickenham, affectionately known as Billy Williams Cabbage Patch after an RFU committee member who was instrumental in the purchase of the former market garden, hosted its first international when Wales visited on 15 January 1910.  England won 11-6.

Outside the 4/5/6 Nations, England have also played home matches at Crystal Palace (against New Zealand in 1905 and South Africa in 1906), Wembley (Canada, 1992), Old Trafford Manchester (New Zealand, 1997), and the McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield, now known as the Galpharm Stadium (World Cup Qualifiers against the Netherlands, 1998 and Italy 1998.)

Ireland

Having played their first international away to England at the Oval, Ireland’s first home international was a defeat by England by a goal and a try to nil.  Ireland continued the tradition established by both Scotland and England in staging the match at the Leinster Cricket Ground, Rathmines, Dublin, on 13 December 1875

Ireland’s next home game, against Scotland on 19th February 1877, was the first of seven matches to be staged at the North of Ireland Football Club off the Ormeau Road in South Belfast.  The Scots ran away victors by 4 goals, 2 tries and 2 drop goals to nil. Founded in 1868 as a section of the North of Ireland Cricket Club, it was one of the three oldest rugby clubs in Ireland until it merged and moved in with Collegians in 1999 to create Belfast Harlequins.  Subsequently, the ground was vacated and turned over to housing.

Lansdowne Road, which was conceived as a multi-sport venue by Henry Dunlop, organiser of the first All Ireland Athletics Championship, opened for athletics in 1872.  Incorporating a cinder track, the inevitable cricket pitch, croquet green, football pitches, archery facilities and lawn tennis courts, Lansdowne hosted its first rugby international on 11 March 1878 when Ireland succumbed to England by 2 goals and 1 try to nil.  The Irish Rugby Football Union took over the lease of the venue in the early 1900s and the ground became Ireland’s spiritual home for the next century until it closed for redevelopment after the autumn internationals in 2006.  The then reigning world champions South Africa were the first international visitors when Lansdowne Road was reborn as the Aviva Stadium on 6 November 2010.

The Ulster Cricket Ground in Ballynafeigh Park, Belfast hosted three matches between 1891 and 1894. The first visitors were Scotland on 21 February 1891, winning 0-14. [Please leave a comment if you can help locate this ground on the map. Thanks.]

Ireland’s match against Wales on 19 March 1898, which ended in defeat by 1 penalty goal to a goal, try and penalty goal, was played at Thomond Park, Limerick.  The home of Munster but owned by the Irish RFU, the stadium has been redeveloped since 2008.

The Mardyke Grounds of the University College Cork are arguably Ireland’s most successful home venue.  Three internationals have resulted in three home victories.  England succumbed by 17-3 on 11 February 1905. France have been defeated twice: by 25-5 on 25 March 1911 and by 24-0 on 24 March 1913.

The Balmoral Showgrounds of the Royal Ulster Agriculture Society staged several 4/5 Nations matches starting with the 0-8 defeat by Scotland on 19 February 1898.  The last match at the venue was the match against Wales on 12 March 1921 which  Wales won 0-6.  The Showgrounds also hosted South Africa in November 1906]

The modern home of Ulster Rugby, Ravenhill Park has hosted 12 internationals against 4/5/6 Nations opposition.  England were the first visitors on 9 February 1924 winning 3-14. Scotland were the last 5Nations visitors on 27 February 1954. Ireland won 6-0.

During the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road, there is a certain irony that Ireland have been permitted to play their home internationals at Croke Park, the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association.  Established in 1884 to counter the growing influence of so-called “foreign” sports – especially those from England – the GAA’s full title references its duty to ensure the “Preservation and Cultivation of National Pastimes.”  The first visitors to Croke Park on 11 February 2007 were at least gallic: France won 17-20.  Ireland were clear winners – by 43-13 – when England made their first historic visit two weeks later.   Scotland won the last of 14 international rugby matches at Croke Park, on 20 March 2010, winning 20-23.

Outside the 4/5/6 Nations Championship, Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick has hosted Ireland matches against Romania (September 2002), Italy (August 2003) and Canada (November 2009) while the Royal Dublin Society hosted Ireland’s match against Fiji as recently as November 2009.

IRFU results archive Team archive

Wales

Since their international debut at Blackheath in February 1881, Wales have played home fixtures at seven locations. Of these, the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, has yet to stage a 4/5/6 Nations match.  Two of the home venues selected by Wales have been in England, and both of these have also been used by England as home grounds.

St Helen’s in Swansea staged Wales’ first home match on 16 December 1882.  England won by 2 goals and 4 tries to nil.  France’s first official 5 Nations match – a 49-14 defeat – was played at the Swansea ground on New Year’s Day 1910.  Hosting 50 4/5/6 Nations internationals up to the Wales v Scotland match in April 1954, St Helen’s has also been a cricket ground for more than 130 years. Most famously it was where, in 1968, Malcolm Nash suffered the ignominy of allowing Garry Sobers to become the first 1st class cricketer to hit 6 sixes in an over.

Rodney Parade, Newport, hosted six international matches between Scotland’s first visit and victory on 12 January 1884 and the 14-8 victory for Wales over France on 25 March 1912.

The long association between Cardiff Arms Park and international rugby began on 12 April 1884 with a Welsh victory over Ireland by 1 drop goal and 2 tries to nil. Donated by the Marquis of Bute to the City of Cardiff  “for recreational use” in perpetuity, the Arms Park was used by Cardiff Cricket Club from 1848 and subsequently by Glamorgan County Cricket Club until the 1960s.  The southern part of the park became the home of Cardiff RFC from 1876. In the 1960s, as cricketers relocated to pitches up-river in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff’s rugby club took over the former cricket ground while the existing rugby stadium was redeveloped for international use as the National Ground Cardiff Arms Park.  Between the Welsh 3-0 victory over England on 22 January 1955 and England’s 13-34 victory on 15 March 1997, all Wales’s 5 Nations home fixtures were played at the Arms Park / National Ground.

Stradey Park, Llanelli staged three 4 Nations matches starting with England’s visit and 0-0 draw on 4 January 1887.  The first match was actually moved at short notice from the deeply frozen rugby pitch to the adjacent cricket pitch.  (In 1998, during the redevelopment of the National Ground, Stradey Park hosted internationals against Italy in February and Argentina in November).

For the match against Ireland on 12 March 1887, the Welsh Rugby Union chose to play a home match in England.  With Ireland reluctant to travel to play the most junior of the 4 Nations, the match was played at Birkenhead Park – within easy reach of Liverpool Docks and the shipping lines to Dublin.  Wales’ generosity was rewarded with victory by a drop goal and a try to 3 tries: these were the days when a drop goal was valued much more than a try.  Wales were to play “away” on the same ground to England 16 years later.

Between 1997 and 1999, Wales decamped to England again – this time at Wembley.  As well as Autumn internationals against New Zealand (1997) and South Africa (1998), Wembley hosted four 5 Nations matches. The first was a 19-13 victory against Scotland.  Wales last action in the shadows of Wembley’s twin towers was Scott Gibbs dramatic (and heart-breaking for Englishmen) over-time try in the 32-31 victory over England on 11 April 1999.

The most famous feature of the new Millennium Stadium is, of course, its retractable roof – designed to fend off the metre of rain that falls on Cardiff in a typical year.   The new pitch, mounted on removable pallets, has been rotated through 90 degrees compared with the old National Ground to run north-south.  The (un-finished) Stadium opened for international rugby on 26 June 1999 to witness Wales’ first ever victory over South Africa by 29-19.  The (finished) Stadium subsequently staged the 1999 Rugby World Cup final in which Australia beat France 35-12 on 6 November 1999.  The Stadium’s first 6 Nations match was against France on 5 February 2000.

WRU results archive

RugbyData.com contains match-by-match details for most international rugby matches, including all 4/5/6 Nations matches.

Record breaking Usain Bolt in Manchester – in 3D!

By , 15th September 2009 14:17

UsainBoltI’m just wrapping up my annual visit to Amsterdam where I work with the organisers of IBC, the world’s leading international broadcast technology exhibition and conference – an event where the importance of sport to television is highlighted by the number of exhibitors showing sporting footage to demonstrate their wares.

One of the main themes throughout this year’s show has been 3D TV.  IBC has been covering the renaissance of 3D in cinema for several years.  The debate is rapidly moving on to when 3D television transmissions will become commonplace.  In the UK, Sky is planning to launch a 3D channel for special events in 2010 which will show one-off events on a pay-per-view basis initially.  Until compatible hardware becomes widely available at affordable prices, sports enthusiasts who want to experience live sport in 3D will have to make a trip down to their local digital cinema.  But if you get the opportunity, I’d thoroughly recommend it.

I managed to catch a fascinating session on the new challenges of producing live TV content in 3D.  One of the case studies presented was a project to capture Usain Bolt’s attempt on 150 metres world record in 3D.

The attempt on the rarely-raced distance took place on a specially laid track on Deansgate, one of the main streets through Manchester city centre, on 17 May 2009.  Bolt covered the distance in a new world best time of 14.45 seconds. The production company who captured the race on video described the race as the fastest race of all time – as Bolt’s split time for the last 100 metres was just 8.72 seconds, well inside Bolt’s own 100m world record.

Here’s the footage of the race – in 2D – which has been derived from the same camera set-up used for the 3D footage.

The Manchester Evening News – whose offices look down on Deansgate – reports on the outcome here.

Despite the challenge of setting up the shoot in typical Manchester weather, the 3D footage on a big cinema screen was spectacular.  It was much more dramatic than the 2D footage available on youTube.

So not only should Deansgate get a plaque for the setting of the new 150m record, it may well qualify for a plaque as the venue of the first athletics world record captured in 3D!

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