Discover more from Counter Cut
Queen Elizabeth II and the FA
Our Sports Editor finds an interesting connection between Queen Elizabeth II and Sir Stanley Matthew's golden hour!
This weekend the FA and EFL decided to postpone the weekend's fixtures in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. Rightly or wrongly, the decision was made as a mark of respect to a monarch who had ruled the country for 70 years.
Many other sports have not taken this approach and are using this weekend to celebrate the Queen’s life and pay their respects with minute silences and renditions of God Save The Queen.
It seems a shame that football has been postponed, as unbeknownst to me until researching this piece and I’m sure many others, Her Majesty and football in England share an interesting story.
In 1953 Blackpool and Bolton met in the FA Cup Final. Often referred to as the Matthews Final, Sir Stanley Matthews playing a key role in Blackpool’s second half comeback, it had a far bigger impact on English football than Matthews stunning performance.
For many, this was Matthews’ last chance at getting his hands on the FA Cup, with Blackpool reaching the final but not winning on two previous occasions, at 38. Fans didn’t envisage The Wizard of the Dribble would continue playing for another 12 years.
There was added excitement amongst football fans - Matthews had long been considered the best player in England if not the world, and the game was to be televised.
It wasn’t the first time the FA Cup had been on television, that had happened in 1938 when Preston North End took on Huddersfield, but with only 10,000 television sets across the country there were more than 9 times as many people in Wembley than there were televisions.
This final was different though because it was being held one month before Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. After it was announced that the coronation would be televised, the public had gone out in droves to get their hands on a TV. Up and down the country communities chipped in to rent or buy televisions so they could get a glimpse of the Queen on 2 June 1953.
What better way to make sure your set worked and you had the aerial set up right before the coronation, than to watch the FA Cup final?
The Matthews Final is considered to be the first sporting event with a major television audience. After the success of the FA Cup on television it was given its own standalone slot and to this day is still one of only five domestic sporting events required to be on free-to-air television.
I’m not suggesting, by any stretch, that the popularity of football in this country is down to Elizabeth II. Gates at football matches in the First Division were similar to today, averaging at 34,741 for the 52/53 season. But the impact the upcoming coronation had across the country inadvertently made the FA Cup a staple in every football fans calendar, whether their team was involved or not, for generations to come.
The Queen was also in attendance at the final, although it was the Duke of Edinburgh who did the pregame pitch walk, to present the trophy to a victorious Blackpool team. Giving her loyal subjects an early opportunity to see her on screen.
It was something she would continue to do, on and off, until 2006 when her grandson and Aston Villa fanatic Prince William became President of the Football Association.
Arsenal were her team apparently, though we won’t hold that against her, and that makes perfect sense. Arsenal are the most successful team in FA Cup history lifting the trophy 14 times.
Arsenal were the only club to ever be invited to Buckingham Palace for afternoon tea with the Queen back in 2007. That in itself suggests she must have been a fan and just wanted to meet Thierry Henry. Arsenal were nowhere near close to the team they had been in previous seasons!
When you hear footballers of a certain age talk about their earliest football memories, almost all of them are of watching FA Cup finals on TV. The season's crowning jewel, the showpiece event. Inspired to get a ball and have a kick-a-round in the back garden or on the streets. Dreaming of one day being able to play in the Final at Wembley. When they finally did, they in turn inspired another generation to do the same.
The FA Cup final had become a national event. It was even broadcast in foreign countries, with some of the English league’s foreign stars even saying the FA Cup final was the first English game they had ever watched.
Its reach seemed limitless.
Who would have thought The Matthews Final and Queen Elizabeth’s coronation would be the perfect storm!
Written by Tomas Browne, Sports Editor
Thanks for reading Counter Cut! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.