Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Resurrection of the Home Internationals!

The Football Association will confirm today (11th January) that Vauxhall has signed a four-year deal to be the new sponsor of the England football team, which could in turn lead to the revival of what was the oldest international competition before its demise over a quarter of a century ago - the 'Home International Championships.'

Vauxhall has also signed sponsorship agreements with the three other home nations, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Discussions between the home nation associations are ongoing and could lead to a tournament played over three international windows and some seven months, from November 2012 to June 2013, to coincide with the FA's 150th anniversary celebrations. There are aspirations to make it a regular event thereafter, although today FA general secretary Alex Horne poured cold water on the idea it could become a permanent arrangement. "We're talking to the home nations about a possible one-off round of matches with them in 2013, to mark our 150th anniversary," said Horne

The annual competition, last contested in 1984, was a regular fixture on the football calendar for about 100 years.

The interruption of the 1980-81 competition by the troubles in Northern Ireland did not help the championship's cause, nor did repeated bouts of hooliganism.
When England and Scotland fielded weakened teams in 1983-84, the British Home Championship was effectively finished.
Although the England versus Scotland fixture continued for another five years, the extended season and the importance of other tournaments had finally taken its toll.

Over recent years, there have been calls for its return, with only the English FA remaining opposed. However it looks like things are about to change. One of the main reasons for the the English FA's U-turn is seemingly financial.

The FA's finances have been hit hard in recent years by the expense of rebuilding Wembley and the implosion of its broadcast partner Setanta. This has come at a time when the governing body has spent heavily on the likes of Fabio Capello and making an unsuccessful bid for the 2018 World Cup.

Back in 1884 England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland were all playing international football. So the idea that they should all play each other in an annual league was a logical step.

Of the 89 tournaments, Wales won the tournament outright seven times and Northern Ireland three, while England and Scotland were far ahead with 34 and 24 wins respectively. Until 1979 titles were decided only on points, and not goal difference. 20 titles were shared as a result, and on one occasion, in 1955-56, the four nations split the title after they all finished on three points apiece.

In 1980-81 there was no winner because England and Wales refused to travel to Belfast owing to civil unrest.

In 1949-50 and 1953-54 the championships were used to decide World Cup qualifiers, with the top two teams going to the finals. However in 1950 Scotland, despite finishing second, opted to stay at home and withdrew from what would have been their first-ever World Cup appearance, a tournament held in Brazil that year.

The 1976-77 Championship came down to the final game between England and Scotland at Wembley. Scotland won the game 2-1, making them champions. A huge pitch invasion by the overjoyed Scottish fans ensued, causing extensive damage ensued as the pitch was ripped up and taken back to Scotland in small pieces, along with one of the broken crossbars!

Nonetheless, the games between these two fiercest of nations provided some of the happiest stories in Scottish football, including the 5-1 victory in 1928 in London and the 3-2 victory on the same ground in 1967, just nine months after England had been crowned World Cup winners.Scotland also suffered some shocking hidings down the years, including a 7-2 defeat in 1955 and a 9-3 hammering in 1961.

1 comment:

Chester said...

I actually went to the last home internationals when Northern Ireland won the tournament, I was just a little lad with Northern Irish parents when I went to that, but became a big England fan after that! Still root for the Irish in all other games though!

I hope they get these games back on again, I really do.