The Wonderful Game

October 23, 2013


WEBWATCH: Ken Masters

With twelve or more games now played in The Football League season 2013-14, I thought I would check into the web site of the game’s founding league. In my view The Football League has had to work hard to maintain its status and standing since the formation of the Premier League back in the nineties. To its credit The League has done that and it can be rightly proud of its 125 year history and of the innovations that it has introduced down the years. The League has done more for football, arguably, than any other of the leading organisational bodies nationwide and indeed worldwide. The League can be very proud of its history and has every good reason to celebrate 125 years at this time.

This from the official Football League web site:

As part of the celebrations for its 125th Anniversary, The Football League has premiered a new short-film entitled ‘125 Years Young’ which documents the history of the world’s original league football competition since its formation in 1888.”

The film features some of the earliest known footage of Football League matches from the Mitchell & Kenyon collection, including Newcastle United versus Liverpool from November 1901 and Preston North End v Notts County in October 1904. Also included are many landmark moments in the game’s development, as well as fans, media personalities, and familiar faces from across the football world.”

Supporters also get the chance to see a hatful of memorable Football League moments including the injury-time goal by Arsenal’s Michael Thomas in the last match of the 1989 season that saw the Gunners snatch the title from Liverpool on goal difference, the 94th minute winner from Carlisle United goalkeeper Jimmy Glass in 1999 that kept the Cumbrians in The Football League and the extraordinary events from Griffin Park on the final day of last season that saw Doncaster Rovers snatch victory from the jaws of defeat to take the League 1 title.”

Not just supporters I would think but anybody with an interest in the game, players, coaches, officials, sports historians and alike; well alright, supporters because that’s what we all are to be honest. So, a viewing of the short film is a must then. It’s all there on the home page, just click to start.

Mark Clemmit introduces by reminding us that The League was the world’s first and original league football competition. Simply “The Football League” with no national reference in the title. The year was 1888 and William McGregor of Aston Villa can take all the credit. It was the same year in which Bristol and Gloucestershire’s W.G. Grace captained England cricketers for the first time at the age of forty. Did you know that W G was a football ref for early Rovers football matches? I wonder what the great man would have thought about the struggle to regenerate Neville Road as a fit for purpose cricket venue for the 21st century or indeed the struggle to build or regenerate football stadia likewise.

Twelve clubs were invited to become the first League members, the first game was between Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers and the first League champions were Preston North End. The next major innovation was a second division with promotion and relegation; a feature that is still the very bed rock of interest and excitement in the game. The first radio broadcast was in January 1927 so that the support was extended away from the ground. Record crowds were registered after the Second World War; 83260 saw Manchester United take on Arsenal.

The maximum wage for players was abolished in the sixties with Fulham’s Johnny Haynes becoming the first player to earn £100 per week. In the same decade Match of the Day was screened on BBC 2 with Liverpool beating Arsenal by 3 gaols to 2. The seventies saw the rise of the games super stars with George Best the first to carry the accolade. Actually I disagree, in my view it was Stanley Matthews. Then we saw the age of the playoffs, yet another Football League innovation. The Taylor report gets a mention. Another did you know; £800 million pounds has been invested in stadia since the report. Come on Bristol!

This is how William McGregor summed it up:

I really believe that the game would have received a very severe check and its popularity would have been paralysed if the League had not been founded. I am not saying that football would have died because football will never die. Even if the time should come when it ceases to be highly organised it will still be the pastime of juveniles because it is not easy to conceive the introduction of a game which will proves its superior”

William McGregor died in 1911 but his words could have been written this past week. They are true, so true; it really is the wonderful game. I say again, come on Bristol, for our people, for our community, for our economy, for our heritage and for our legacy; we need new stadia for Bristol Football, please, no more delays.



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