Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK


Sporting shrine inspired generations of stars

200,000 fans packed into the first Wembley FA Cup final.

When the first FA Cup Final was staged at Wembley in 1923, more than 200,000 fans packed into the stadium to watch Bolton Wanderers take on West Ham United.

Thousands spilled onto the pitch and the game was in danger of being abandoned had it not been for the intervention of a lone mounted policeman.

[ image: The White Horse Final of 1923]
The White Horse Final of 1923
On his horse Billie, PC George Scorey slowly pushed the masses back to the sides of the pitch so the match could start.

Within three minutes David Jack had put Bolton ahead and they went on to win 2-0.

The scoreline was quickly forgotten by many but the actions of PC Scorey were not. To this day the game is still known as the 'White Horse Final'.

But while its role as the home of the FA Cup Final secured Wembley's place in football folklore - the stadium has an important place in the history of a host of other sports.

Gone to the dogs

Before the Second World War it was greyhound racing and speedway which paid the bills.

[ image: A wartime England rugby union team played Scotland in 1942]
A wartime England rugby union team played Scotland in 1942
The war prevented Wembley from hosting the 1944 Olympic Games but four years later the owners brought the games to London.

Star of the event was Dutch housewife Fanny Blankers-Koen who won four gold medals - on a running track made from cinders from the fireplaces of the city of Leicester.

Mohammed Ali staged one of his greatest fights in the Wembley bowl. Having been laid out by Henry Cooper in the fourth round, Ali was saved by the bell and came back to get the fight stopped in the fifth.

Northern delights

Rugby League's showpiece Challenge Cup Final first came to Wembley in 1929 and quickly joined the FA Cup as one of the stadium's carnival days.

[ image: Live Aid raised $100m for poorer countries]
Live Aid raised $100m for poorer countries
The stadium's role as a powerful symbol of celebration was encapsulated by Live Aid in 1985 when Sir Bob Geldoff brought together scores of bands for a huge open air concert which raised $100m for the developing world.

But English football had claimed Wembley as its own long before then.

Never more so than when England hosted the 1966 World Cup.

Alf Ramsay's men played all their games at Wembley to set up an epic final against Germany which is still described as one of the most exciting ever.

[ image: They think it's all over....]
They think it's all over....
The crossbar which played such a crucial role in Geoff Hurst's decisive but disputed goal in England's extra-time win is still kept in the Wembley museum.

While that symbol of English football's finest hour may live on, the stadium's twin towers which have come to mean so much to the game, will not.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Sport Contents

Relevant Stories

02 Jul 99 | Football
United rule out cup U-turn

29 Apr 99 | UK
Norman Foster: Building the future

12 Mar 99 | Football
Banks denounces Twin Towers

29 Jul 99 | Football
All-clear for 2006 campaign

Internet Links

Wembley Stadium

England's World Cup 2006 Campaign

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Collins calls it a day for Scots

Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

Christie could get two-year ban

From Health
Footballers 'receive poor medical care'

Plucky England hang around

Derby double swoop fails

European Cup starts with a bang

Spain maintain narrow lead

From Special Report
Keegan accused over late night

The next Battle of Britain

McIlroy tipped for NI role

Saqlain stars in Aussie collapse

White Rose rivals meet again

Keane talks to resume

League to rule on Sky shares

From Special Report
We'll be back for World Cup - Brown

From Special Report
Cheers and tears for Scotland

From Special Report
Keegan insists England can triumph

Solanki breathes life into draw

From Special Report
I've rarely seen anything worse

From Special Report
An almost unbelievable turnaround

Milestone for McGrath against Pakistan

Faldo's caddie dumps her bag

Irish to appeal after brawl

British Rally route and maps