The Unfortunate War Years: How WWII Affected the FA Cup

Step back in time and delve into the untold story of how World War II left an indelible mark on one of England's most revered sporting events - the FA Cup. In the midst of chaos and conflict, the beautiful game took an unexpected turn, forever altering the course of this prestigious tournament. As the world was engulfed in the darkness of war, the FA Cup became a symbol of resilience and unity, showcasing the unwavering spirit of football enthusiasts. Join us as we explore the challenges faced by clubs, players, and fans alike during those unfortunate war years. Discover the extraordinary tales of makeshift stadiums, depleted squads, and the profound impact this global conflict had on the FA Cup's history. From the heroic efforts of footballers turned soldiers to the innovative strategies employed to keep the competition alive, this captivating journey will shed light on a lesser-known chapter in football's hallowed history. Prepare to be transported back in time, where the echo of cheers blended with the sound of bombs, and the legacy of the FA Cup was forever shaped by the tumultuous era of World War II.


World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945, was a global conflict that had a profound impact on the United Kingdom. The war brought immense challenges and hardships to the nation, both on and off the battlefield. As the war raged on, the lives of ordinary people were disrupted, and various aspects of daily life, including sports, were greatly affected. The FA Cup, one of the most prestigious football competitions in England, was not immune to the repercussions of this devastating conflict.

Pre-war FA Cup

Before the outbreak of war, the FA Cup had already established itself as a highly anticipated annual event in the English football calendar. The tournament, which began in 1871, had seen countless memorable moments and fierce rivalries. The last FA Cup held before the war was in the 1938-1939 season, showcasing the skill and passion of football clubs across the country. Little did they know that the following years would bring unprecedented challenges that would forever change the course of the competition.

The suspension of the FA Cup

With the outbreak of war in September 1939, it became apparent that the FA Cup would have to be suspended. The priority shifted towards the war effort, and football took a backseat as the nation mobilized its resources to fight the enemy. The suspension of the FA Cup was a necessary sacrifice, as football stadiums were transformed into military training grounds and places of refuge. The decision to halt the tournament was met with disappointment but was widely accepted as a necessary measure in the face of a greater threat.

The Wartime FA Cup

While the traditional FA Cup was put on hold, alternative competitions were organized during the war years to keep football alive. These tournaments, known as the Wartime FA Cup, provided a semblance of normalcy in a time of chaos. The format of the Wartime FA Cup varied throughout the war, with regional leagues and knockout competitions being held. The matches were often played in makeshift stadiums, as the regular grounds were repurposed for military use. Despite the challenging circumstances, the Wartime FA Cup allowed football enthusiasts to come together and find solace amidst the turmoil.

The impact on clubs and players

The war had a profound impact on football clubs and players. Many players enlisted in the armed forces, leaving their teams with depleted squads. Some clubs faced financial difficulties, struggling to attract spectators and generate revenue. The war also disrupted the transfer market, making it challenging for clubs to bolster their squads. However, amidst the turmoil, stories of resilience emerged. Some footballers turned soldiers, displaying bravery not only on the pitch but also on the front lines. The war years tested the resolve of clubs and players, but their dedication to the game remained unwavering.

The return of the FA Cup

As the war drew to a close in 1945, there was a collective desire to resume normalcy, including the resumption of the FA Cup. The 1945-1946 season marked the return of the competition after a six-year hiatus. The tournament was a symbol of hope and unity, bringing communities together as they rebuilt their lives. The return of the FA Cup was met with great enthusiasm, as fans flocked to stadiums to witness the revival of their beloved competition. The post-war FA Cup carried a renewed sense of appreciation, as it stood as a testament to the resilience of both the sport and the nation.

The legacy of wartime FA Cup

The wartime FA Cup left a lasting impact on English football. The challenges faced during those years influenced the game in various ways. The experience of playing in makeshift stadiums led to innovations in stadium design and facilities in the post-war era. The camaraderie and unity fostered during the war years also had a profound effect on the way football clubs and fans interacted. The sense of community and togetherness that emerged during the Wartime FA Cup continued to shape the culture of English football long after the war had ended.

Remembering the fallen

The war years were not without tragedy, and the football community was not spared from its devastating effects. Many footballers lost their lives on the battlefield, sacrificing their dreams and careers for the greater good. The FA Cup became a platform to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Commemorations and tributes within the competition served as a reminder of the human cost of war and the enduring legacy of those who fought for their country.