SOME OF THE STORIES.....
1974 - Football League clubs try playing on a Sunday.
It seems hard to believe now but until comparatively recent times Football League sides did not play on a Sunday and in fact the law of the land prevented them from charging admission if they were to play on the Sabbath. It was outside influences that forced a change.
The Yom Kippur War between Israel and Arab nations in 1973 led to the Arab members of OPEC suspending deliveries of oil to western nations who had supported Israel in the conflict. This caused an energy crisis in late 1973 which was made worse in Britain by the miners coming out on strike in February 1974. A state of emergency was declared in Britain which was followed by a three day working week to save electricity.
Football was not high on the priorities for the available power and the use of floodlights was banned, even extending to power generated by private generators. All matches had to be played in daylight so kick-off times were brought forward on Saturdays and during the week matches were played in the afternoon. Clubs wanted to postpone matches to the end of the season but the Football League refused as bad weather might cause fixture chaos in the last months of the season. Proposals to suspend the League and to extend it to June were also rejected.
In December 1973 the Football Association asked the Home Office for permission to play matches on Sundays. Even though floodlights would not be used electricity was needed for the general running of the ground and it was considered that Sundays might allow a more guaranteed supply. Permission was granted, but the change was not universally popular. Bob Wall of Arsenal said: ' Playing football and making profits on a Sunday is wrong. We will not disturb the peace and quiet of the neighbourhood of Highbury on that day.' How times have changed!
But things needed to change. Attendances plummeted for not only were the revised kick-off times unpopular but the price of petrol, which was increasing daily, and the uncertainty of employment meant that many couldn't afford to attend matches.
Things did change. Sunday January 6th 1974 was the historic day which saw four FA Cup Third Round ties played, the first match on a Sunday being the Cambridge United v Oldham match which kicked off in the morning. Two weeks later, on January 20th, a dozen grounds staged League football for the first time on the Sunday, the first of those kicking off in the morning being Millwall v Fulham in the Second Division. A week later on Sunday 27th January the first match in the top flight was played, a Geoff Hurst penalty giving Stoke City a 1-0 home victory over Chelsea. The same weekend saw Darlington play two home League matches - they played Stockport on the Saturday and Torquay on Sunday, both ending in draws. Sunday football had arrived.
It proved to be a popular innovation and generally attendances were considerably better than average. While not everyone was in favour of Sunday football most agreed with FA secretary Ted Croker when he said: 'Football is the national game and we should be concerned to give the public what they want when they want it. A lot of people do want to watch football on Sundays.'
Two weeks after the first League matches on a Sunday Swindon Town's Jimmy Allan became the first player to refuse to play on a Sunday because of his religious beliefs. The devout Christian had been an ever-present in goal for Swindon in the League up to that point but on Sunday February 3rd he was missing from the Swindon team for their Second Division match against Bolton at the County Ground. And more history was made!
If you are wondering how the clubs got around the law of the land, The Sunday Observance Act (of 1780!), which prevented an admission charge being made for football matches (as well as many other events. Well, it was a fiddle. Admission was free but you needed to buy a programme to get in. Programmes cost differing amounts depending on what part of the ground you wanted to enter. That was enough to get round the law! It was sumed up nicely on the front cover of the programme for the first ever match played on a Sunday -
Yes it does seem amazing that Sunday
football has not always been with us and there was genuinely a time when
there was no certainty that the two would go together. The editorial in
the programme for the Millwall v Fulham gives an interesting insight to
the thinking of the time and this I have reproduced in full below -