Sun 28 June 2020 | 8:01

National and International Football Match and League Lockouts

Coronavirus has brought the world of football to a halt in this unprecedented situation but how many times have football match lockouts happened before?

It takes something really serious for sport to be put on hold, which has not happened on a global or continental scale very often in modern history so far.

The world of football generally exists in a bubble, where the game and its players can go about business without much consideration to what is happening outside the borders of the sport.

That sense of detachment has helped football endure through tumultuous times, allowing it to remain a near-constant feature of life for fans.


The followings include some of the reasons

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football match and league lockouts:


Altough it is usually assumed that football can be separate from the rest of reality, it has disappeared from public life in times of global crisis.


Coronavirus outbreak

League after league has fallen to COVID-19, suspending play while no realistic return date has been announced, meaning that different outcomes are now possible this season.

The Premier League in England became the latest soccer league to suspend games, after Mikel Arteta, the manager of Arsenal, and the Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for the virus.

Games will not be played in the top four divisions until the end of April at least. Scotland also suspended its games. Arsenal, Chelsea, and Everton all quarantined some of their players.

England and Scotland joined almost every other major league in Europe, including France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and a host of smaller countries.

Germany was the last major league to surrender to the tide of cancellations, deciding to stop games until April.

All Champions

League and games have also been suspended


Most Asian countries also suspended their international matches and leagues after coronavirus outbreak, leaving games for the most part only in Mexico, Africa, and some of South America.

United States men’s and women’s team friendlies in March and April have also been canceled.


Second World War

It will come as little surprise to know that the outbreak of World War 2 meant that football took a back seat in many countries as the people had their full attention focused on the 'war effort', though, interestingly, the impact was not as widespread as the Covid-19 crisis, affecting mainly Europe.

When World War II was declared in 1939, it had a negative effect on association football; competitions were suspended and players signed up to fight, resulting in the deaths of many of them.

In England, most leagues were suspended mid-way through the 1939-40 season and normal service did not resume again until 1946-47. Many footballers signed up to fight in the war and, tragically, many died.

While national leagues were put on hold during this time in England, regional football matches were still held. Competitions known as 'The Wartime League' and 'The War Cup' replaced the on-hold Football League and the FA Cup, with authorities at the time defending their existence as morale-boosting recreational outlets for workers.

However, it was controversial since it was felt that large-scale gatherings of people, such as those found at football matches, would be at risk as a potential target for enemies.

There was

national match and league lockouts

in France for the duration of the war, before resuming in 1945-46.

The war also had an impact on the World Cup, a competition then in its infancy, as two editions - 1942 and 1946 - were cancelled.

Nevertheless, even as dark as things were in the period between 1939 and 1945, some national leagues persevered.

Throughout the latter 1930s, it was becoming inevitable that a Second World War with Germany was coming. On 21 September 1939, the government announced football games would continue but not under the divisions that the game traditionally held season to season.

The Football League teams each played 2-3 League matches per division before it was abandoned. After a fifty-mile travelling limit was established, the football association divided the football league into separate regional leagues with reduced attendance numbers.

In the interests of public safety, the number of spectators allowed to attend these games was limited to 8,000. These arrangements were later revised, and clubs were allowed gates of 15,000 from tickets purchased on the day of the game through the turnstiles.

Many footballers during this time left their careers to join the Territorial Army. Between September 1939 and the end of the war, 784 footballers joined in the war effort. 91 men joined from Wolverhampton Wanderers, 76 from Liverpool, 65 from Huddersfield Town, 63 from Leicester City, 62 from Charlton, 55 from Preston North End, 52 from Burnley, 50 from Sheffield Wednesday, 44 from Chelsea, 41 each from Brentford and Southampton, Sunderland and West Ham United, and 1 from Norwich City.

Each season saw the divisions switched around from region to region. The first season of the Wartime League 1939–40 season, saw ten divisions established, two in the north of England, one in the West Midlands, one in the East Midlands, one in the South West and two in the South, which were both played in two sections.

Arsenal, Tottenham, Queens Park Rangers, and Crystal Palace were all winners of their own South section. The FA Cup was suspended. To substitute for its absence, the Football League War Cup was established.


By May 1940 the Phoney War ended, as Hitler ordered his troops to invade Britain and France. Fears of Britain's safeties from bombings were increasing, but over 40,000 fans braved the warnings and turned out at Wembley Stadium to see West Ham United lift the Football League War Cup by defeating Blackburn Rovers.

On 19 September 1940, soon after the beginning of the Blitz, the Football Association relaxed their ban on Sunday football to provide recreation for war workers.

In 1940–1941, the leagues were reduced in numbers to just two: the North Regional League and the South Regional League. Crystal Palace were champions of the South and Preston North End were the North champions. The London War Cup was also introduced.

For 1941–1942, these were renamed to League North and League South and the London League was added.

From 1942 to 1945, the leagues were continued as three, now established as League North, League South, League West, and now a League North Cup as opposed to London. The Football League War Cup continued on in these years.

In May 1945, Germany surrendered following the suicide of Adolf Hitler. The Wartime League's structure continued for one more season from 1945–1946 with just the League North and League South. This season however marked the retirement of the Football League War Cup and the return of The FA Cup with a new structure; seeing home and away leg ties for the first time in its history with results being decided on aggregate goals and extra-time, followed by a replay.

In 1946–1947, the league was then returned to pre-war four divisions, First Division, Second Division and Division 3 with its north-south split.

In Spain, the Primera Division was suspended during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), but it was uninterrupted by the Second World War, while Serie A in Italy continued as normal until 1943 before its cancellation in 1944-45 (normal service resumed in 1945-46).

Germany's Gauliga carried on throughout the duration of the war, with Schalke proving the most successful club in that period as they won three out of six championships between 1939 and 1944. German football was subsequently impacted in the aftermath of the war though, with no national league in operation until 1948.

The Wartime League produced very few memorable moments for fans of clubs who managed to play. The lack of availability for footballers to participate wore down the league's performance. Despite guest players being introduced, many teams still struggled to produce a full squad and resigned many matches. League table points were often added up by goal average or appearances as opposed to match results.

The Blitz was still taking place when the 1941 Football League War Cup Final took place at Wembley on 31 May. Preston North End and Arsenal drew 1–1 in front of a 60,000 crowd. Preston won the replay at Blackburn, 2–1. Robert Beattie got both of Preston's goals.

Wolves won the Football League War Cup in 1942, beating Sunderland 4–1. The team featured a player named Eric Robinson, who was killed during a military training exercise soon afterwards. 

In the 1940–1941 season, Preston North End needed to win their last game against Liverpool to win the North Regional League title. The nineteen-year-old Andrew McLaren scored all six goals in the 6–1 victory.



First World War

When World War I was declared in 1914, it had a negative effect on association football; in some countries competitions were suspended and players signed up to fight, resulting in the deaths of many players.

As a sport, football was still very much in its formative stages when World War 1 broke out and the organized game was impacted significantly during the hostilities.

The national leagues of England, France, Italy, Germany, and some other countries were all suspended while the fighting took place. La Liga in Spain, of course, was not in operation as it was not founded until 1929.

As with the Second World War, many footballers signed up to fight in World War 1 and the British forces even had a dedicated 'Football Battalion', which was led by former Birmingham City player Frank Buckley. Players from all sorts of clubs were involved, including some from Manchester United and Chelsea, among others.



Christmas Truce

The First World War is memorable for the story of the 'Christmas Truce' during which a football match is said to have been played between German and British soldiers.

 The Christmas Truce occurred on and around Christmas Day 1914, when the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front during World War I in favor of holiday celebrations. During the unofficial ceasefire, soldiers on both sides of the conflict emerged from the trenches and shared gestures of goodwill.

 While it is unlikely that an organized match was played, there are many testimonies of impromptu games happening and the mythos around it has served as a powerful symbol of common humanity.

Not long after the war ended, football leagues resumed for the 1919-20 season, but it wouldn't be long before they were interrupted forcefully again.



Spanish flu pandemic

Football behind closed doors might sound familiar in these largely sport-free days but it is how the sporting world was affected by the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago. It was the deadliest pandemic the world has ever known.

In Spain, Barcelona founder Joan Gamper led the fight to allow football to carry on. The Spanish

Football Federation called the sport off

, but the Catalan championship started anyway in October, 1918. It was reported that Gamper led a commission that convinced the Spanish Health Ministry to allow football to proceed, just as athletics and tennis had.

The British parliament never actually cancelled football for the pandemic, nor did it limit crowds. Chelsea played to more than 20,000 at Stamford Bridge. This was despite the Football League and FA Cup being cancelled for the war, instead, teams played in regional competitions with Chelsea in the London Combination League.

As Chelsea recorded on their official website, several of their players were infected but recovered. However, former player Angus Douglas, who had since become a Newcastle United player, died that December, aged 29.

Women’s football was at its peak, with many teams stepping into the gap left by the absence of the league and cup. The Dick, Kerr Ladies team, named after the Preston factory where the players worked, played throughout the years of the pandemic and often to large crowds.



Football after Coronavirus

It is speculated that football will be totally different when it eventually resumes after the

coronavirus outbreak put all matches on hold


The head of global soccer body FIFA Gianni Infantino said, “Football will come back, and when it does, we’ll celebrate coming out of a nightmare together,” he told the Italian news agency ANSA in an interview.

“There is one lesson, however, that both you and me must have understood: the football that will come after the virus will be totally different...(more) inclusive, more social and more supportive, connected to the individual countries and at the same time more global, less arrogant and more welcoming.”

He added: “We will be better, more human and more attentive to true values.”



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