Bramall Lane in Sheffield is the world’s oldest football stadium, but who played on the pitch when it first opened its doors? We’ll address all of your concerns and more!
Despite the fact that it is currently the home of Sheffield United Football Club, Bramall Lane was once a cricket ground.
It was home to six separate local cricket clubs, including Wednesday Cricket Club, which later became Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.
Bramall Lane’s most famous use will always be for hosting football, but there’s no denying the importance that cricket has played in its history.
In fact, it’s one of only two stadiums in the world that has hosted an England football international and an England cricket international, the other being the Oval in London.
Australia defeated the host team by 143 runs in the 1902 England cricket match. The cricketers blamed the loss on poor lighting, which they suspected was caused by pollution from nearby manufacturers.
Attendances at the ground were likewise low, and international cricket never returned to Bramall Lane.
The venue hosted its first football match in 1862, when Sheffield Football Club faced Hallam Football Club, with the gate money benefiting the Lancashire Distress Fund.
That allowed all of the most important football games in the area to be played at the stadium, beginning with the world’s inaugural football tournament.
The Youdan Cup was held at Bramall Lane in 1867, with Hallam defeating Norfolk in the final.
The Cromwell Cup was hosted a year later, thirteen years after the ground originally opened its doors. The Cromwell Cup was won by The Wednesday, a very new squad.
It’s ironic that they won their first big trophy at the stadium where their main opponents now play.
The Wednesday won the Sheffield Challenge Cup in 1877, defeating Hallam in the final in front of an estimated 8000 spectators.
Bramall Lane had virtually become The Wednesday’s home while they awaited the construction of a new stadium at Olive Grove.
In 1889, 27 years after the first football game at Bramall Lane, 22,688 spectators paid to witness Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion compete in an FA Cup semi-final.
It was at that point that the stadium’s owners realised they could make more money on a more constant basis if they had a club that could name the stadium their permanent home.
Sheffield United was founded on March 22, that year, and was named after the cricket team that was still based at Bramall Lane. Cricket was still so popular in 1900 that a new pavilion was built.
Bramall Lane wasn’t just for cricket and football, either. It was a true multi-use venue, with a cycling track running around the perimeter of the pitch until it was removed in 1901.
There was always some debate around that and it raged for years, with a running track replacing it in 1935.
But eventually, it did become the home turf for Sheffield United.