150 years on from the first match report
With today’s back-pages concentrating on the fall-out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s latest attempt to influence officials, you might be forgiven for missing the 150th anniversary this weekend of the first recorded match report in a newspaper.
As Bramall Lane tomorrow plays host to a top vs bottom League 1 encounter, on 29 December 1962 it hosted its very first football match between the world’s two oldest clubs – Sheffield FC and Hallam FC. While not their first encounter, which happened two years previously (reportedly the world’s oldest football match), it was the first match where there was a report in the paper. The proceeds of the gate receipts went to the Lancashire Distress Fund, which had been set up to respond to the fall in the cotton trade caused by the American civil war. Any critics of how far behind the MLS is compared to the UK should consider then that back when Britain was playing its first football matches, Lincoln was fighting to abolish slavery.
There’s seemingly no headline for the article that the British Newspaper Archive provides. Given that the game finished scoreless after three hours of play, arguably the world’s first football headline should have been “Bore Draw Raises Question Over Football’s Future”. But a quick read of the article suggests it was a bit feisty – dubbed “The Battle Of Bramall Lane” (no, not that one).
For starters, the game seemed to give birth to the passionate football fan baying for blood. Hallam apparently had “many partisans present”, who when the team “were successful in ‘downing’ a man, their ardent friends were more noisily jubilant”. This was apparently back in the days when Downing was met with a great reception.
Best of all though is the onfield fight that apparently broke out, following an “accidental” hit on a Hallam player by Sheffield’s Major Creswick. Frankly, anyone with the rank of Major wouldn’t have accidentally hit someone – their army training would have made this all tactical. In the same way that modern-day Midfield General, Paul Scholes, accidentally makes appallingly late challenges. Repeatedly.
Hallam’s player, Waterfall, appears to have agreed – confronting the Major in “a most irritable manner”, striking at him several times, and even “threw off his waistcoat”. He sounds like a slightly better dressed Joey Barton. This in turn led to a pitch invasion and a fight between the players and fans. Where were the stewards? Or the Major’s regiment chums? It sounded like chaos – presumably with someone yelling from a megaphone “Supporters are advised to please not encroach onto the pitch”. It makes the modern-day pitch invasion seem tame in comparison.
Waterfall gets a bit of a rough deal in the report, which seems heavily biased towards Sheffield FC. Plenty of his team-mates are said to have rejoiced in the attack on the Major and “were just as ready to ‘Hallam it’ on the slightest provocation”. Rather than being sent off though (ref probably bottled it), Waterfall suffered the next worst punishment that could be offered up – playing in goal.
The report appeals for the Hallam players to apologise, “for it is not to be endured that healthful sports should degenerate into unseemly brawls”. Can you imagine The Times calling for a public apology from Sir Alex for haranging Mike Dean and his officials in the Newcastle game?
Given the fiery nature of the game, it’s a surprise that the reporter chooses to end the article with an attack levelled at the “long interval in the middle of the game, that was devoted to refreshments”, which the Sheffield players objected to. The interval, as stated earlier in the report, was 15 minutes. This seems a perfectly reasonable amount of time for fans to have a cup of tea and enjoy Britain’s latest new craze, the Garibaldi biscuit. The players could even change their sweaty waistcoats. So when you read this weekend’s reports on your club’s match, spare a thought for the man that had to report on three hours of football, watching presumably in a non-existent press box, without a goal, or even a “rouge”. Whatever the hell that was.
Written by @josephclift