George Hotel Huddersfield – Birthplace of the Rugby League

By , 25th October 2013 17:51

Saturday 26th October 2013 may mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Football Association at the Freemason’s Tavern in London, but it is also the opening day of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

The sport of rugby league was effectively born on 29 August 1895 when representatives of twenty-two clubs met at the George Hotel, Huddersfield and formed the Northern Rugby Football Union.  The clubs, mostly from Yorkshire and Lancashire, wanted to have the option of compensating players for taking time off work to play in Saturday matches.  “Broken time” payments were outlawed by the then Rugby Football Union.


View Larger Map

The Rugby League World Cup dates back to an inaugural tournament in France in 1954 – predating its Rugby Union counterpart by some 33 years.

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, on the Putney Embankment, close to the start of the Boat Race, 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 Challenge Cup at Henley.

In 1865, Morley was elected to London’s the 12-strong 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 RC’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 and 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. (At least one of the contributors to the 1863 revision, R.H. Blake Humfrey, had been a “wet-bob” while at Eton.)

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 would later be 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 full 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)

Sporting sesquicentenaries

By , 3rd July 2013 06:59

The (English) Football Association celebrated its 150th anniversary – and its pioneering role as the oldest national governing body in the sport of (association) football –  in 2013.

Henley Royal Regatta, which had a massive influence on the early development of rowing as an amateur sport, celebrated its 150th anniversary, in 1989. As only he could, Peter Coni, the then Chairman applied the adjective “sesquicentenary” to the celebrations.

With a light stream and strong tail wind, especially on finals day, the regatta was notable for new course and intermediate records in several events. In winning the Grand Challenge Cup, one of the two events staged at the first Henley in 1839, Hansa Dortmund became the first crew to cover the Henley course in less than six minutes.

However, for those who were in the Stewards Enclosure on Sunday July 2nd, it was the final of the Ladies Plate, the second most senior event for eights, which created the drama and the abiding memories.

As one of those witnesses, it proved very difficult to concentrate on my return to work the following day.  I can confess that my productivity on that Monday morning was woeful as I felt compelled to commit my recollections to paper.

It’s interesting that the observations about the reserve of British spectators is now out-dated. Perhaps the “Dorney Roar” of London 2012 owes something to the passion that can be generated by the active rowing enthusiasts who make up the overwhelming majority of the spectators in the Stewards Enclosure.  Re-reading the text on the eve of Henley 2013, it dawned on me that the  man “waving the gnarled piece of wood” was the legendary Harvard coach, Harry Parker who sadly passed away on 25 June 2013, aged 77.

This is what I wrote 24 years ago.

 

THE DAY NOTTS COUNTY WON THE LADIES PLATE – TWICE

Jim and I extracted ourselves from the Bridge Bar half an hour before the end of the tea interval in order to ensure we had a good view of what the programme told us were the last five races of the day. Leaning over the rail of the upper deck of the floating grandstand, we chatted about the races to come and the records that had tumbled earlier.

Less than five feet away, the legendary Steward and commentator Angus Robertson was quietly practicing: it was probably “R Floryn and N Rienks of Die Leythe and Okeanos, Holland on the Bucks station and P Luzek and I Gruza of Dukla Praha, Czechoslovakia on the Berkshire station” for the final of the Double Sculls Challenge Cup was due off at 5.25. Just before tea he had finally seen-off K Broniewski of AZS-AWF Warszawa, Poland, in the final of the Diamonds to yet another round of applause, and had coped admirably with the surprise breaking of the AZS Szczecin & AZS Wroclaw 1987 Fawley record in the Prince Philip.

The Ladies Plate between Harvard, reputed to be the fastest crew in America, and Notts County Rowing Association was the first race after tea at 5.15. This was the one Jim was most interested in: apparently C Bates (10 st 11 lb), the Notts County bowman was a friend of his. Jim was telling me about some selection wrangle which was bubbling in the background as the race started.

Henley Royal Regatta 1989 Ladies Plate final Notts County vs Harvard

The first final

From behind me, Mr Robertson reported the progress of the crews to the massed crowds. Notts came hurtling down the course, leading to the barrier in a record equaling 1.48, lengthening out to Fawley in a record breaking 3.01 and shattering both Harvard and their semi-final full course record with a five length verdict in 6.13.

For a crew that gave away 2st 2lb per man and maintained a rate in the 40s and high 30s for most of the course, the Notts crews still had enough breath to make an incredible din as they crossed the line!

That, we thought, was that for the Ladies Plate and we turned our attention to the Visitors which was already approaching the Barrier. (Why did the Stewards revert to five-minute intervals more normally associated with Wednesday racing for the first three finals after tea? In the third race, Floryn and Rienks in the Doubles had reached the mile signal before commentators could catch up with them.)

At some point during the remaining races, probably between races 16 and 17, a man appeared behind me, and entered into deep discussion with Messrs Robertson and colleagues. In his right hand he was waving a gnarled piece of wood 6-8 inches long and about an inch and a half thick. I remember thinking it was an odd thing to carry around the Stewards Enclosure. I was about to make a wise crack about the fact that our visitor was not wearing either a jacket or a tie but thought better of it!

The visitor departed and Mr Robertson issued an urgent instruction to his radio operator to find ‘the Chairman’. Officials were dispatched in all directions. At this point, I was all-ears but I had missed out on all the intrigue. The Chairman arrived and another sotto voce discussion took place before the Chairman left decreeing that whatever it was he had ordered had better be done ‘fast!’

The result of the Special Race for Schools had hardly been announced when Mr Robertson scurried away.

Jim and I departed for the Fawley stand and the prize giving. I told Jim what had been happening behind me: he had been engrossed in a conversation with somebody else.

When the announcement was made that the prize giving would be delayed by fifteen minutes, the Holmes instinct in me (Sherlock rather than Andy) now told me that something was definitely up.

But what? Jim and I walked around the back of the Fawley stand and saw an empty space: there was no Nottingham green between the German Grand winners and the purple blazers of UL who had vanquished Ridley in the Thames.

Then Mr Robertson made another announcement. A piece of wood had become lodged in the fin of the Harvard boat and the race Umpire, who was co-incidentally the Chairman, had ordered a re-row at 8.00 pm. The crowd waiting for prize giving audibly gasped.

The prize giving came and went, and a surprisingly large crowd waited for eight o’clock and the second final of the Ladies’ Challenge Plate.

Somehow I managed to lose Jim, so I returned to the floating grandstand. He reappeared a little later with a young lady who also appeared to know the 10 st 11 lb Notts bowman. (She wasn’t a member of Stewards, but nobody seemed to notice, or care.)

Mr Robertson was already in his place at the microphone and there was chatter about esoteric subjects such as rule 30M. The Steward recounted to an enquirer that he had seen the Harvard cox reach under the boat and pull out the offending branch as the boat had crossed the line. He was totally confident that the rules had been applied fairly. Henley was all about fair play, and justice “must be seen to be done”. I asked what would happen if they dead-heated the re-row. Without hesitation he said: “That’s easy, they turn around, go back and do it again!”.

From Jim’s friend I heard how the Notts crew had had a bevy or two to celebrate already, had showered, changed into blazers for the prize giving, and de-rigged their boat.

Margaret Marshall, well-known Notts County ‘groupie’ came upstairs to the floating stand as well. She couldn’t keep still for nerves. It was one of those incredibly tense sporting moments. Nobody was certain whether the lightweights could pull off a second victory and the fairly stiff tail wind that had helped them down the course the first time had virtually disappeared.

Henley Royal Regatta 1989 - Ladies Plate Final re-row Notts County vs Harvard. Photo: Ian Volans

Approaching the finish line in the re-row

Eight o’clock eventually arrived and the race started. Notts again left the stake boat at a heart-stopping rate and Mr Robertson announced that the Barrier record they had equaled earlier had now been reduced to 1.47. Fawley was reached in 3.01, the same time as in the first final and as the crews, still overlapping, passed the mile signal the enclosure opened its collective throat.

The British have often been accused of being too reserved and not getting behind its sportsmen and women. I am coming to the conclusion that this is not an accusation that can be leveled at the Stewards’ Enclosure. I also suspect that the nine Australians who went down by one foot to Leander in the 1988 Grand Final would agree. Harvard are probably revising their opinions too. A friend who had been standing on the river bank said that he did hear a man shout for Harvard, “but only once.”

Coming past the progress board, Harvard were still too close for the comfort of those on the bank, but at least a couple of the Notts oarsmen seemed to be unconcerned as they started punching the air.

After taking a couple of seconds to compose himself, a very relieved-looking Angus Robertson allowed himself a smile before announcing the result of the Ladies Challenge Plate: Notts County had won by two-thirds of a length in yet another new record time of 6.11.

 

HRR 1989 Ladies Plate Final

HRR conventions used to note record breaking times in the programme.

 

Hundreds of spectators waited to applaud Notts as they completed a quick lap of honour past the stands and a sizeable crowd gathered to see the crew come into the landing stage to be congratulated first by Chairman Coni handing out medals and then by the Harvard crew who almost managed to capsize the pontoon. The applause only stopped when the boat was in the boat-tent.

Henley Royal Regatta - After the rerow of the Ladies Plate final. Photo: Ian Volans

HRR Chairman Peter Coni and Harvard congratulate Notts County after the re-row

This is the stuff that legends are made out off and like all legends some aspects will be embellished in the retelling. In years to come it may be told that the Notts crew drank the Bridge Bar dry between the two races, or that the Harvard crew had one of the course booms lodged in its fin. Whatever the myths of the future, the truth on the first Sunday in July, 1989 was that Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association ‘A’ crew gave away over two stone per man and still beat the ‘fastest crew in America’ twice in a period of 2 hours 51 minutes and 11 seconds, setting record times on both occasions.

Driving home, my thoughts returned to the final of the Grand. The achievement of Hansa Dortmund in becoming the first crew to race down the Henley track in less than six minutes would have been the abiding memory of any normal Henley Finals Day. However, Finals Day of Henley’s 150th birthday regatta was far from normal.

Tom Kay, the three-man in the Notts County crew, posted his own recollections of the two finals in June 2017.

The Football League: conceived in Fleet Street, born in Manchester

By , 21st March 2013 11:11

Andertons_Hotel_site_01022011As well as the 150th anniversary of the Football Association, 2013 also marks the 125th anniversary of the world’s first league football competition.  The Football League was the brainchild of William McGregor, a committee member of Aston Villa FC.

The prohibition on professionalism had been lifted by the Football Association in 1885.  Drawing the biggest crowds, the FA Cup, and to a lesser extent local and regional cup competitions, were the principle sources of revenue for those clubs that started to pay players. However the knock-out nature of cup football made managing club finances difficult.

On 2 March 1888, McGregor wrote to five prominent clubs proposing a meeting to discuss his idea of establishing a programme of competitive home and away fixtures to give clubs more stable and predictable revenue streams. He also canvased suggestions of other clubs who should be invited to participate.

Representatives from Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion met at Anderton’s Hotel, Fleet Street, in London on 23 March – the eve of the 1888 FA Cup Final.  (The final was to be contested by West Bromwich Albion and Preston North End at the Oval.)

Anderton’s Hotel stood at 165 Fleet Street.  The Victorian building was demolished in 1939 and the site is now part-occupied by a branch of HSBC.

2013-02-06 13.38.18Although the modern building’s connection with the origins of league football is not commemorated, the British Institute of Professional Photography did erect a plaque on the occasion of the centenary of its inaugural meeting which was held at Anderton’s Hotel on 28 March 1901.

The Football League was officially born at a meeting at the Royal Hotel in central Manchester on 17 April 1888.    The 12 founding members included six clubs from the Midlands and six from Lancashire: Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke City, West Brom, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Everton and Preston.

In marked contrast, the clubs which had attended the inaugural meeting of the Football Association at the Freemasons Tavern 25 years previously had all been from the London area.  It is perhaps a reflection of the commercial nous of the League’s founder members that all bar Accrington survive today. By contrast, of the 11 founder members of the FA – Barnes, Blackheath, Blackheath Proprietary School, Civil Service, Crusaders, Crystal Palace, Forest of Leytonstone (who later became the Wanderers), Kensington School, No Names Club from Kilburn, Perceval House (Blackheath), and Surbiton – only Palace has maintained a place in the upper tiers of the sport in England.

As for Manchester’s Royal Hotel, it stood on the corner of Market Street and Mosley Street overlooking what is now Piccadilly Gardens.   The hotel itself was demolished in 1908 and the site was incorporated into Lewis’s Emporium which was already occupying an adjacent block.  The Emporium was replaced in 1915 and the site is now occupied by the Royal Buildings.  The site’s role in the creation of league football is commemorated by  a plaque erected by Manchester City Council in 1996.

The 2012 BBC SPOTY nominees

By , 16th December 2012 19:26

After the controversial all-male shortlist in 2011, the reconstituted judging panel for the 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year were spoiled for choice at the end of an incredible year for British sport. Once again, Sportingland looks for factors that might influence how the nation votes.

The 2012 shortlist is made up of seven men and five women.

All but one of the nominees starred at London 2012. Three are Paralympians.

After London 2012 started a debate about the coverage of sport in the British media, how it is dominated by football and gives negligible exposure to the athletic achievements of women it is fitting that the SPOTY shortlist does not include a footballer for the first time in many years.

If active sportsmen and women wish to support candidates from their own sports, cyclists and athletes have a choice of three candidates each. For boxers, golfers, rowers, swimmers and tennis players, the choice will be much easier.


View SPOTY 2012 in a larger map

Who will Scottish voters back? Previous nominees Andy Murray and Sir Chris Hoy or Katherine Grainger?

Rory McIlroy has a clear run at both the Northern Ireland and golf votes this year having been up against fellow Ulster golfers Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell in previous years. Similarly Ellie Simmonds is the only candidate from the Midlands.

Ten of the finalists are on twitter. If twitter followers translated into votes cast, Based on twitter followeers as of 28 November, Rory McIlroy would win, Andy Murray would be second with Jess Ennis third.

If the Amazon sports book best sellers list is reflected in votes cast, Bradley Wiggins wins gold, with Jess in silver medal position and Chris Hoy taking bronze.

Let battle commence.

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.

140 years of FA Cup final venues

By , 4th May 2012 18:42

The FA Cup final has been synonymous with Wembley since 1923. However, 10 venues have staged finals over the tournament’s 140 year history. Another three have staged replays.

Although the overwhelming majority of Finals have been played in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff have hosted finals while Derby, Bolton and Sheffield have had the honour of hosting replays.

As with 4/5/6 Nations rugby venues, the sporting heritage of several started with cricket: The Oval, Racecourse Ground and Bramall Lane, while Lillie Bridge and Stamford Bridge were important in the early development of athletics as an organised sport.

The Oval’s role as venue for 20 out of the first 21 finals had a lot to do with Charles W Alcock being simultaneously secretary of both the Football Association and Surrey County Cricket club. As the principal co-ordinator of fixtures for visiting cricket teams from Australia, his cricketing contacts probably had something to do with the 1886 replay being taken to Derby’s Racecourse Ground.

Three of the venues are, sadly, no longer sporting landmarks. Their approximate outlines are plotted on the map below. (Zoom in to find them in West London, Greater Manchester and Bolton.)


View FA Cup Final venues in a larger map

The full list of FA Cup final winners can be found here.

Liverpool’s 19th Century contribution to Goal Line Technology

By , 2nd May 2012 16:00

Disputed goals are nothing new. Neither are proposals for goal line technology.

In the game’s early days, goals were defined by two vertical posts.  The cross-bar, introduced in 1882, was one of many footballing innovations from Sheffield, alongside the throw-in, heading, corner kicks, free-kicks for fouls and even half time.

However disputes over whether the ball had passed between the posts or behind them were common and became more vociferous as the sport became more commercial and spectators started to pay to watch their local teams.

It was a disallowed goal in a closely fought match between Everton and Accrington on 26 October 1889 that inspired the invention of the goal net.

The game was played at Anfield, Everton’s home until the club moved to nearby Goodison Park after a dispute with their landlord in 1892.  Everton, and their supporters, were convinced they had scored.  The ref disagreed.  The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Among the crowd was John Alexander Brodie (1858-1934) a young civil engineer.  In November 1889, he submitted a patent application (no. 19,112) for goal nets for football and other games.  The patent was granted on 27 November of the following year.

Brodie’s proposal was delightfully simple: a ‘pocket in which the ball may lodge after passing through the goal’.  Nets ‘as under Mr Brodie’s patent’ were later approved by the Football Association and first used in an FA Cup final in March 1891 at the Oval, London. Nets became compulsory for all league matches from September 1891 and for all FA Cup ties from 1894.

Although Brodie described the goal net as the invention of which he was most proud, he also had an enduring influence on the development of Liverpool as a city.   He conceived the Queen’s Road ring road, the concept of building tramways in central reservations and pioneered the use of concrete for pre-fabricated affordable housing.  He also worked on Queensway, the original Mersey Tunnel, which became the longest subaqueous road tunnel when it opened in 1934.   Further afield, he was also involved in the planning of New Delhi in India.

Another of Brodie’s projects can also be regarded as something of a sporting landmark.  His East Lancashire Road (A580) connecting Liverpool with Mancheseter was the first purpose-built trunk-road. It’s name is often applied to derby matches featuring a club from each of the cities.

Brodie was born on 5 June 1858 at Chyknell,near Bridgnorth, Shropshire. He studied at Owens College Manchester between 1879-81. An English Heritage plaque was erected at his former Liverpool residence at 28 Ullet Road in 2000.

SJ3688 : 28 Ullet Road, John Brodie's House by Sue Adair
28 Ullet Road, John Brodie’s House
© Copyright Sue Adair and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Treading the fine blue line – the length of the 2012 Torch Relay

By , 18th April 2012 21:26

This is a little off-topic, but as SportingLandmarks was inspired by working on the 2002 Queen’s Jubilee Baton Relay that acted as the curtain-raiser for the XVII Commonwealth Games in Manchester, I have a personal and professional interest in the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

When the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay visited London on a cold and snowy day in April 2008, we caught a glimpse of the logistics that are being put in place to accompany the Olympic Flame as it passes through 1024 villages, towns and cities across the British Isles between 18 May and 27 July.

In the wake of the disruption wreaked on the 2012 University Boat Race by a lone swimmer, there has been a flurry of media comment and speculation about the vulnerability of Olympic road races and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relays. It was disruption of the Beijing Relay in a number of cities around the world that prompted the IOC to ban international legs for subsequent Torch Relays. London’s short but welcome visit to Dublin has been granted a special dispensation from Lausanne.

Police NEG

One of the two ACPO National Escort Groups which shared responsibility for policing the 2002 Queen’s Jubilee Baton Relay

With twin responsibilities to both protect all participants and spectators while minimising the impact of the large vehicle convoys on local traffic, the security operation will be sophisticated. For the London Torch Relays, security will be on a bigger scale than for Manchester in 2002, not least because the Olympic Flame has a much higher profile than the Queen’s Baton of the Commonwealth Games.

Back in 2002, the police escort group was made up of police officers seconded from forces all over the country. Like the old adage about football referees, the philosophy of the security runners protecting the Baton was that they were doing a good job when they were unobtrusive. The way all the officers threw themselves into supporting the Baton Runners and engaging with the crowds along the route made a massive contribution to the overall Relay experience. At journey’s end, many of the officers considered their involvement to have been a highlight of their own careers.

As the video clip below shows, there can be dangers when too much security is deployed: a large security cordon can become more difficult to command and control.

London’s 2012 Relays have been pitched as giving inspirational Torch Bearers their “moment to shine”. Let’s hope that the security heads allow the Runners to make the most of their moments by successfully treading that very fine blue line between being unobtrusive and overwhelming.

Good luck!

Melrose – birthplace of rugby sevens

By , 11th April 2012 13:15

Staged annually in April, the Melrose 7s festival is a reminder that the next team sport to be added to the Olympic roster, in Rio in 2016, was invented in the Scottish borders.

Digging around in the Melrose Sevens website reveals that Melrose Football Club, followers of the Rugby rules of football, was desperately searching for fund-raising ideas in the early 1880s. Ned Haig, a Jedburgh-born Melrose member, suggested staging a one-day tournament to bring in the crowds.   To make the format workable, teams were to be reduced to seven players and matches limited to 15 minutes.

Held on 28 April 1883, the first tournament proved a great success. Special trains brought hundreds of spectators from Galashiels and Hawick.  The 129th Melrose Sevens will be staged on 14 April 2010.

The Scottish town’s status as birthplace of sevens is recognised by the the International Rugby Board.  The Melrose Cup is the trophy for the IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens, first staged up the road at Murrayfield in Edinburgh 1993.

Since sevens becomes an Olympic sport in 2016, the next RWC Sevens is expected to be the last – although the IRB website is remarkably coy about its future after the 2013 tournament which will be hosted in Moscow.

In 2009, Stewart Maxwell, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, called on the Scottish Rugby Union to demand that the IRB withdraw rugby sevens from the Olympic Games. Rather than celebrating the even higher profile that Melrose’s invention will now have worldwide, he fears Scotland looses an opportunity to appear – in its own right – on an international stage.  His campaign echoes the resistance of some in association football to the inclusion of a GB soccer team in the London 2012 Olympics when England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are each individual members of FIFA.

However, the IRB is promoting its Sevens World Series to develop sevens and provide many more opportunities for international teams to compete.  Sevens has also become a highly successful and fiercely competitive part of the Commonwealth Games – which Glasgow hosts in 2014.  The IRB rankings, reveal that Commonwealth nations are prominent among rugby’s leading nations in both the fifteens and sevens versions of the sport.

Given its role as the birthplace of sevens, it’s a shame that Melrose doesn’t even feature on the route of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

PS: if Rugby takes its name from the town and school which championed a form of football which allowed running with the ball, why isn’t Rugby Sevens known as Melrose?

PPS: was it entirely coincidental that the IOC wll admit two sports with deep Scottish roots – rugby sevens and golf – to the Oympics in 2016.

Links: Wikipedia has entries on rugby sevens in 22 languages, including fittingly, Scots!

Panorama Theme by Themocracy