Today in London’s sporting history: 1000s invade pitch at FA Cup final, Wembley, 1923.

April 28, 1923: West Ham and Bolton contested the first FA Cup Final to be played at Wembley Stadium.

The 1923 final on April 28 was the climax to English football’s most famous cup competition – but it began with scenes of chaos after a huge pitch invasion.

Bolton won the game 2-0, but the final is remembered by many for the vast crowds who took to the pitch before kick-off.

Three-and-a-half hours before a ball was kicked, thousands upon thousands of fans swarmed into the stadium and out onto the pitch. According to the FA, 125,000 supporters were expected to turn out though, such was the fervour to attend the cup final at the newly-opened stadium, it’s estimated that the actual number was closer to 300,000. That said, the attendance for the game is still officially listed as “just” 126,047.

Mounted police had to clear people from the playing surface before the match could get going. Even then crowds packed the touchlines to watch the match…

An image of one officer atop a light-coloured horse was one of the defining images of the final, with many remembering the day as the ‘White Horse Final’.

West Ham manager Charlie Paynter actually partially blamed Billy the horse for his side’s defeat, claiming that, “It was that white horse thumping its big feet into the pitch that made it hopeless. Our wingers were tumbling all over the place, tripping up in great ruts and holes”.

There’s some great photos of the day here


An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online


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