English football unites to commemorate World War I

Saturday 22 Mar 2014
Early evening in Longueval
English football united together in northern France this weekend as the game began its collective remembrance to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I.

FA chairman Greg Dyke joined the 30-strong delegation that left central London on Friday morning, with all on the Football League-organised trip spending three days visiting battlefields and cemeteries with special football significance. 

The 1914-1918 Great War Centenary Tour, which notably on Saturday took in some of the sites where the Battle of the Somme was fought from July to November 1916, will be followed by further initiatives to be announced later in the year.

Dyke, who helped lay a wreath at the Football League's memorial to the Footballers' Battallion in the village of Longueval, said: “We are remembering footballers, people who played or worked in the game and gave the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War. 

“I still find it shocking that hundreds upon hundreds of people were being killed regularly. Thousands died on the first day of the Somme. It is very hard to believe in this day and age.”

Greg Dyke Somme

Mike Foster (director of football, Premier League), Andy Williamson (chief operating officer, the Football League) and Greg Dyke (Chairman, The FA) at the Footballers' Battalions Memorial in Longueval in the Somme


The Football League's guests also included Premier League director of football Mike Foster, PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor, LMA chief executive Richard Bevan, and Major General Malcolm Wood of the Army FA.

The historic sites visited included many of those associated with the Footballers' Battalion. The Middlesex 17th and 23rd regiments consisted of players, officials, referees and fans from across domestic football who lived and died together in some of the fiercest fighting of the entire war. 

The tour also visited the site where Evelyn Lintott, then chairman of the PFA, was killed on the first day of the Somme offensive in 1916 and the grave of Bradford Park Avenue's Donald Bell who earned the Victoria Cross for his heroic efforts.

Football League chairman, Greg Clarke said: "This trip is aimed at raising our collective understanding, as a game, of the sacrifices made by those connected to football during the Great War. 

“It is important to ensure that their efforts are never forgotten and I hope that others who love our game will also visit these very special places during the forthcoming centenary period."

The tour is being led by Football League's Senior Youth Regional Manager, Phil Stant and author Andrew Riddoch. Before joining The Football League, Stant served 5 Infantry Brigade and 12 league clubs, while Riddoch is the acclaimed co-author of 'When the Whistle Blows', the book that chronicles the story of the Footballers' Battalion.

By FA Staff