Dunfermline Athletic

First Sunday game ?

Date: Monday, 23rd Mar 2020

One of the topics on the DAFC.net forum was related to when the first sunday game started and how did they came about.

One fan states: "Was the Falkirk v Dunfermline game decades ago in the Scottish cup the first Sunday game? A mate of mine who is a hearts supporter was at the game with me and is posing the question. We canny remember the score either."

A follow up post provides more detail on the circumstances.

There were lots of Scottish Cup ties played on that first day of Sunday senior football in Scotland.

In November 1973, the Tory Government declared a State of Emergency when the NUM introduced an overtime ban. The UK then entered recession for the first time since the end of the War. Heath then announced a ‘three-day week’ in January 1974 as a measure to conserve electricity during the period of industrial action by coal miners. This meant that most workplaces only had power for three days each week – homes were also hit by regular pre-announced power cuts. This caused a problem for football as floodlight use was now banned despite the winter months. There was now a general energy crisis as due to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, OPEC had suspended oil deliveries to Western nations who had backed Israel. A full-blown Miners Strike was also looming (which did come about in February 1974).

Football was not high on the priorities for the available power and as aforementioned the use of floodlights was banned. 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 in England but the Football League refused as bad weather might cause fixture chaos in the last months of the season. Extending the season into June was also rejected.

In December 1973 the Football Association asked the Home Office for permission to play matches on Sundays. Even though floodlights could 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. There were many who still held to the Sabbath as a day of rest. 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.` Swindon goalkeeper Jimmy Allan refused to play on Sundays.

Sunday January 6th 1974 was the historic day which saw four FA Cup Third Round ties played south of the Border. League games then followed. In England though the Sunday Observance Act (1780), prevented an admission charge being made for football matches, as well as many other events. Clubs though just made admission 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 and shot up in price!

In Scottish football, some juvenile leagues had already taken this step as some clubs had players required to work on Saturdays when power was available to their employers. The Sunday Observance Act didn’t apply up in Scotland anyway. Clydebank then made the proposal for Sunday football during the period of the state of emergency and an EGM of the SFA was convened on 21 January.

The meeting lasted all of one minute as Clydebank’s proposal was voted through by the clubs on an unanimous basis. Bert Kerr of the Scottish Churches FA had moved that there should be no such change but his motion failed to find a seconder. Bobby Watson, the experienced Motherwell skipper was also a lay preacher, and he wasn’t in favour of Sunday football. However, he was pragmatic saying he would have to attend Church early on Sunday and then play as required given football was his bread and butter.

If though he had been a fan only he would not have attended Sunday matches. Churchmen generally felt this was the thin end of the wedge – would football on the Sabbath really cease once the current State of Emergency ended? They doubted that the people of this country wanted what was popularly known as ‘the Continental Sunday’.

We though all know the answer to that – the genie was well and truly out of the bottle.

Follow the conversation on the DAFC.net forum

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