On this day, the 26th October, in 1955, two simultaneous floodlit firsts took place, the first time in British football history that two such games had been played on the same day. So perhaps it’s fitting given my fascination with floodlit football that we recap a few floodlit firsts of British football.
Back in the fifties many Brazilian sides toured Europe and one club who hoped to cash in on the success of the 1958 World Cup winning Brazilian national team was Bela Vista Futebol Clube de Sete Lagoas. They weren’t a big club by any stretch of the imagination though a resourceful Brazilian businessman with an eye for an opportunity organised a tour of Europe by the club in the hope of making some money.
First Floodlit Football League Fixture in England
In 1955 Sunderland made a proposal that led to the formal introduction of floodlit fixtures to the league calendar. They suggested that if the two clubs agreed then postponed fixtures could be played under floodlights.
It was their North East rivals Newcastle who made history along with Portsmouth when the two met at Fratton Park for the first League game under floodlights. Newcastle won 2-0 though the game nearly didn’t go ahead. A power failure had electricians working frantically to get the lights on in time for the 7pm kick off.
In 1954 Wolverhampton Wanderers were proclaimed in the English press as ‘Champions of the World’ following a thrilling 3-2 floodlit friendly win over Honved of Hungary. Honved boasted many of the ‘Magical Magyars’ that had humilated England 6-3 at Wembley and then 7-1 in Hungary. In front of 55000 people and the cameras of the BBC, English pride was restored.
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Tottenham Hotspur v Racing Club de Paris 29/09/53
This is a beauty. Match to mark the inauguration of the floodlights at the Park Avenue stadium in Bradford. Nearly seventeen and a half thousand were present to see the vistors win 3-2. Sadly less than 13 years later BPA went into liquidation and left the league. Park Avenue itself is still a sports ground but the stands have long been demolished.
Leyton Orient v Hapoel Petah Tikva Sept 1960
This was Orient’s first home friendly under floodlights against an overseas club. Hapoel Petah Tikva were the reigning Israeli Champions, winning their national title in 58/59, 59/60 and retaining it 60/61. They went on to win the title in both the 61/62 and 62/63 seasons to set a new Israeli record of five consecutive titles which stands to this day. Though they haven’t won it since.
Leyton Orient were a second division club at the time and at the end of the 60/61 season finished in 19th avoiding relegation by just one point. They improved considerably for the 61/62 season finishing as runners-up to Liverpool and gaining promotion into the English top flight. They lasted one season finishing bottom by ten points and haven’t been back since.
Herbert Chapman, Arsenal manager & visionary, 1933
Permanent floodlights were installed at Bramall Lane in 1954 & during the fifties the Blades, in common with other clubs, played a series of floodlit friendlies to popularise the game under lights.
Over seventy-five years earlier in 1878 Bramall Lane had been the venue for the World’s first floodlit football match.