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Tuesday 01 April 2014

Battlefield visit honours football's role in war effort

Representatives from across English game mark the centenary of the outbreak of First World War

  • Mike Foster, Andy Williamson and Greg Dyke at the Footballers' Battalions memorial

Representatives from across football marked the contribution made by the game to the First World War, in a trip last month to battlefields and cemeteries in Northern France that hold a special significance to football. 

Premier League Director of Football Mike Foster joined Football League chairman Greg Clarke, Football League chief operating officer Andy Williamson, The Football Association chairman Greg Dyke, Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive, Gordon Taylor, League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan and Major General Malcolm Wood of the Army FA to mark the centenary of the outbreak of First World War in November this year.

The group visited a number of historic sites, including many associated with the Middlesex 17th and 23rd regiments. Often known as the "Footballers’ Battalion", it consisted of players, officials, referees and fans from across domestic football who lived and died together in some of the fiercest fighting of the war. 

The sites included the grave of Donald Bell, the former Bradford Park Avenue player who earned the Victoria Cross for his heroic efforts in the Somme offensive. For the first time, Bell's Victoria Cross, which was bought at auction by the PFA in 2010, was taken to his place of rest.

Since 2011, the Premier League has been commemorating the sacrifices made in the First World War with its Christmas Truce Tournament. This honours the moment when British and German footballers stopped fighting each other on Christmas Day 1914 and played football in no-man’s land in Belgium.

The Truce Tournament combines the opportunity to experience competition for Under-11s with the chance to educate this generation about the horrors of the war. Academy teams from two Premier League clubs emerge from regional qualifiers to play against two clubs each from France, Belgium and Germany while also taking in part in ceremonies over the Remembrance weekend in November.

During this year's tournament, the Premier League will unveil a new 3G pitch at the site of the tournament in Ypres as a special gesture to mark the centenary.

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