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First professional Sunday football game played 50 years ago at Wisbech Town

Wisbech Town at home to Walsham. Wisbech Town FC.
Wisbech Town at home to Walsham. Wisbech Town FC.

By Gordon Smith

Just what does a small club in the middle of the Fens have to do with a football milestone?

Well, on Sunday, March 19 it will be 50 years since the first professional football game on a Sunday was played: Wisbech Town v Dunstable Town in a Southern League Division One fixture.

With gates going down, the Wisbech manager at the time, ex-England and Wolves player Jesse Pye discussed with the Board of Directors of playing a game on a Sunday. With one exception the Board agreed.

Permission was sought from the FA; the Southern League also agreed, but stated it was to be an experiment. Dunstable Town also agreed to play on the Sunday.

On the day admission was by programme only. Instead of 2/6d (12½p) it would be 3 shillings (15p).

By then Pye had moved to Blackpool, but would have been pleased that the attendance was 1,372 which was more than double the average gate for the Fenmen who lost 2-1 to their visitors that day.

It stirred interest from the national Press and the Lords Day Observance Society and was declared a success, but it was to be a few years before Sunday football became the norm.

Attempts were made to play a game on the Sunday without success and for Saturday, March 18, an United Counties League fixture v Harborough Town, supporters who can remember being at the game (it was a long while ago!) will be mascots for the day and a special programme including a reprint of the original will be on sale.

So if your partner moans about you missing the ‘Sunday roast’ for a game of football − blame the Fenmen!

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