Bramall Lane, Sheffield is the oldest professional football stadium in the world. Built in 1855 as a cricket ground, it hosted its first football game in 1862, between Hallam FC and Sheffield FC. The Sheffield Independent (30 December 1862) covered the game, including details about a skirmish: “At one time it appeared likely that the match would be turned into a general fight” after one of the players was accidentally hit by another. The injured party “threw off his waistcoat and began to ‘show fight’ in earnest…They were surrounded by partisans, and for a few minutes there was every appearance of a general fight amongst players and spectators.”
Bramall Lane as a cricket/football ground in the early twentieth century. Copyright unknown.
The ground was predominately used for cricket but continued to play host to regular football matches. In 1878 the world’s first floodlit football match was played there in front of nearly 30,000 spectators. John Tasker provided electricity for the event, as a means to promote his electrical light company. Stages with lamps and reflectors were built in the corners of the ground. Behind each goal was placed a portable engine, each of which drove two dynamo machines that powered the lights.
The Leeds Mercury (15 October 1878) reported that “…the rays, which were of great brilliancy, lighted nearly the whole of the ground, and the players could be seen almost as clear as at noonday,” noting that “the illuminating power was equal to 8,000 standard candles, and the cost per hour for each light is 31s. 2d.” The excitement and novelty of the event was made apparent: “When the light was turned on the great crowd cheered loudly, and then watched the game with great interest. Some amusement was caused by the brilliance of the light, which dazzled the players sometimes, and caused some strange blunders.”
Section of article “Football by the Electric Light” from the Sheffield Independent, 19 October 1878.
Today Bramall Lane is home to Sheffield FC, formed in 1857, they are recognised as the oldest football club in the world. Before they became part of the Football Association (FA) in 1878, the club initially played under ‘Sheffield Rules’; these greatly influenced the FA’s own regulations, introducing the likes of free kicks following a foul, throw-ins, and corners to the game. Throughout the twentieth century the stadium continued to host cricket matches (until 1973), as well as Rugby League games, boxing matches, and music concerts.
Opening times/ access:
The Museum is open for visitors from 1.30 pm on Saturday match-days, £3 for adults and £2 for concessions. Matchday tours are available with the club historian, £6 for adults and £4 for concessions. Details here: www.sufc.co.uk