Retro: Recalling a day of hoofball at Clumber Park

The unusual game of horseback football played at Clumber Park
The unusual game of horseback football played at Clumber Park

As it is the FA Cup final this weekend, hot on the heels of the Premier League coming to an end and the England World Cup being announced, it seems appropriate that Retro this week should feature football of some sort.

However, it is highly unlikely that the players of Arsenal or Hull City will contest the FA Cup final at Wembley in the manner this game at Clumber Park was played in the early years of the 20th Century.

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive reason why a horseback football match using a giant ball was played at Clumber, save for some novelty entertainment.

Horses and football do have their odd moments together, not least the 1923 cup final, the first played at Wembley and known as ‘the white horse’ final after the film of the game showed the chaotic scenes beforehand which featured a mounted policeman on a white horse trying to clear the crowds from the pitch.

The people were on the pitch (to allude to a phrase that would also become famous with a Wembley occasion 43 years later) due to the vast crowd that had surged into the stadium, far exceeding its official capacity of approximately 125,000.

A crowd estimated at up to 300,000 gained entrance and the terraces overflowed, with the result that spectators found their way into the area around the pitch and even on to the playing area itself.

The policeman on the white horse became the defining image of the day as they cleared the crowds from the pitch.

The scene passed into history and is commemorated by the White Horse Bridge at the new Wembley Stadium.

Incidentally, Bolton Wanders beat West Ham United 2-0 to win the cup when the game was finally played.