When Norwich City featured in the first behind closed doors game...
Football at the top level faces the very real prospect of playing games behind closed doors.
It’s a concept that first saw the light of day more than a century ago – and Norwich City were involved.
It doesn’t always work out as planned and even now, 115 years later, is a reminder what might happen if we decide to do it again.
It was March, 1915, when Norwich – then in the Southern League – travelled to Bradford City, of the First Division, for an FA Cup third round game.
The match finished 1-1 after extra-time so they tried again a week later at City’s old ground, The Nest. This time it finished goalless so a second replay was needed – at a neutral ground.
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Lincoln City volunteered to play host, but with a proviso...
“There is a condition, made by the FA, that is not to be overlooked in connection with the Lincoln match – namely, that the public are not to be admitted,” reported the Lincolnshire Echo.
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“The obvious object of this is that workmen shall not be drawn away from their employment in war time, especially if engaged, as so many firms are, on government work. Wednesday’s match at Sincil Bank, therefore, will be played behind closed gates.”
It should have game off without a hitch: it was hardly a headline game and Lincoln, in those days, wasn’t particularly local for either club. Not so...
“Despite the prohibition of the public, the reserved stand was pretty well filled with spectators, though hundreds remained outside the gates and all entrances to the ground were guarded by police,” said the Echo.
Journalists and club officials had been allowed in, along with several hundred off-duty and wounded soldiers but many more were locked outside.
It was goalless at half-time, and things began to get ugly.
“The main gates had been rocking somewhat ominously at different periods through the half,” wrote the Echo, while “the crowd outside had begun to tear down the boards near the main gates, and in three or four places on the Sincil Bank side, and would soon have broken through”.
It forced officials to open the gates, although what they saw in the end wasn’t perhaps worth it: two late goals won it for Bradford.