Sport and Leisure History
Sport and Civilian Morale in Second World War Britain
Professor Matthew Taylor (De Montfort University)
3 October 2011

 

Rugby League wartime matches: Odsal Stadium, Bradford (1940s)

What do you do about a spectator sport such as football during a period of declared war?  This is the question that Matthew Taylor investigates in relation to the declaration of war by Britain against Germany that initiated World War Two.  Soon after war was declared spectator sports such as football, greyhound racing and horse racing were banned entirely, but such policy didn’t last long.  Morale was down and the government began to recognise that sport had a place to play in providing recreation and confidence during a long drawn out war.  The possibility of German bombs targeting massed gatherings at sporting activities remained a strong concern for the government, but nonetheless restrictions were slowly lifted.  Spectator sport has rarely been talked about in studies of the home front during the Second World War yet it tells us something important about the wider picture.  Taylor tries to show what that picture was and what it meant for the wartime experience.   

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