Tuesday 28 April 2020

The Null and Void Line 1947

My recent post on sports being interrupted by unexpected events, often weather related, omitted one football season in England which was extended through June 14th, although in the end only two games were scheduled in that month.

The season was 1946-47, the first season of regular league football since the Second World War, and after a "harsh winter and a government push to end midweek sport to drive up post-war productivity" the Guardian reported that:

“The league are asked in effect to choose between abandoning this season’s championship, which would be a sore blow to the clubs at the head of divisions, or playing on halfway through the summer, or (perhaps the best solution) playing behind closed doors the games needed to conclude the league programme,”
In those days, the season started on the last Saturday of August, and the 1946-47 season used the same schedule that had been started in 1939-40 before it was voided because of the War. Many clubs didn't have floodlights at the time, rationing was still in effect, there were fuel shortages and so when bad weather hit in late January, some clubs soon faced a long backlog of matches. 
“Associated with the problem of completing the fixture list – which seems insoluble in the circumstances – is the question of whether to call the big issues of the season – promotion and relegation – off, or whether to award the prizes and hand out the penalties despite the differing number of fixtures fulfilled,” wrote JT Bolton in the Observer. “The null and void line is the one likely to receive the greatest volume of support.”
Nulling and voiding the League would have cost Liverpool the title, although in some contrast to this season, the only time they topped the table was after their last game on May 31st versus Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Had Wolves won that game, they would have been champions themselves, or had Stoke City beaten Sheffield United in their final game, the title would have been theirs. Stoke lost and ended up in fourth place, still their (joint) best ever final league placing. Losing Stanley Matthews during the season wasn't the best of ideas perhaps!
Voiding the season would have meant that promotions for Manchester City, Burnley, Doncaster Rovers and Cardiff City would have never happened, but on the plus side, Leeds United, Brentford, Swansea Town and Newport County would have avoided relegation, with Southport, Halifax Town, Mansfield Town and Norwich City being spared the indignity of applying for re-election.

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