Football by the Electric Light!

The story that Rhyl was the first place in the world to hold a football match under floodlights has always seemed rather fanciful.  A little research reveals that Rhyl teams were probably the first teams in Wales to play under floodlights, although the match was held in Abergele.

In his book “Rhyl, the Town and its People”, J.W. Jones says “1879 – Thomas Edison provided floodlighting for the World’s first floodlit football match at Rhyl.”  However, this was not the case.

The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, on Tuesday, October 15th, 1878 carried a big article entitled “Football by the Electric Light”.  Here is part of the article:

“The Sheffield public were last evening introduced to a decided novelty in football – a match with the assistance of the electric light.  The contest, which took place at Bramall Lane Ground between two teams selected by the Sheffield Football Association was the first ever played in this country – or anywhere else we believe – with the aid of artificial illumination.” *

Less than six months later on Saturday, February 8th, 1879 The North Wales Chronicle carried this advertisement on its front page:

floodloghtsImage © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive.

On Saturday, March 1st, 1879 The North Wales Chronicle ran an article of which this is part:

“Football Match by the Electric Light – Recently a grand football match, under the patronage of Mr John Roberts M.P., was played in the field adjoining the Bee Hotel, Abergele, the field being illuminated by electric light.  The teams came from Rhyl, and were the Grosvenor and the Skull and Cross Bones respectively.  The latter club were successful, obtaining two goals to one.  The illumination arrangements were intrusted to Messrs Welch and Scott, the eminent engineering firm of Manchester.  The light was exceedingly brilliant, the field being as clear as day.  Owing to the severity of the weather the attendance was but small.  The machines which were used for producing the light were Siemen’s dynamo-electric machines, each of which gave light equal to 600 standard candles.  The electric current was produced by a cylinder of insulated copper wire revolving before the poles of an electric magnet.”*

The Rhyl Record and Advertiser also carried a report of the above match on Saturday February 15th, 1879:

“Football played by aid of the Electric Light – The usually quiet town of Abergele was very lively on Thursday night last, owing to several influential gentlemen having engaged Messrs Welsh and Scott, Manchester, to exhibit the Electric Light, by the aid of which the above game was played.” and “A charge of 1s was made for admission, a very large number attended, as it was the first time it had been exhibited in this part.  The only pity being that the weather had been so unfavourable during the day, making the ground unsuitable for playing, notwithstanding which the teams played with great vigour for about an hour, the game ended in favour of the Skull and Crossbones, who succeeded in having three goals against one of the opponents, the Grosvenor’s.  We have no doubt had the weather not been so unfavourable a great many would have come from Rhyl if it was only for curiosity’s sake.”

So, it seems that Sheffield held the first floodlit match in October, 1878,  the floodlit game between two Rhyl teams at Abergele soon followed on February 13th, 1879.  Rhyl did indeed host a floodlit match, this was held on Thursday, February 27th, 1879  The Rhyl Record and Advertiser reported the match on Saturday, March 1st:

“”Football Match by Electric Light – On Thursday evening a football match was played in a field on Wellington Road, by the aid of the electric light, the competitors being the Grosvenor and another club going under the cognomen of the “Skull and Crossbones” football kickers.  Every precaution had been made by the speculators for a rich harvest of gate money by an effectual barricade of the premises; but we believe that they were as much disappointed in that respect as we were at the entertainment offered for the sixpence and shillings paid for witnessing it.  Anything more inconceivably ridiculous we could not possibly imagine than the spectacle of a lot of young men on an evidently purposeless exhibition of one of our best national games.  However, it was announced to be a drawn game, and there the beribbed guernseys and the skull and crossbones ditto sent up a hearty cheer, the glaring light was put out, and we joined the disappointed throng in groping our way home determined to apply our sixpences to better use in future”.

Read more about the World’s first floodlit match at Sheffield below:

*from The British Newspaper Archive


1 Comment

Filed under Sport

One response to “Football by the Electric Light!

  1. Steve Fox

    Newport v Cardiff on 17 December 1878, played under rugby rules, would appear to be the first floodlit football game in Wales.

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