1. The nation's favourite game
Like many millions of people in Britain today, football is in my blood. Whether you play in front of thousands in huge stadiums, or in the park, this simple game is part of our way of life.
100 years ago, in 1914, it was just the same. Thousands played every week, and hundreds of thousands watched.
When war broke out, football didn't just go away. World War One would be unlike anything that had come before. Most of the country was drawn into the fighting, whether at home or at the front. This is the story of how football would play its part too.
2. In recruitment
In 1914 Britain's small professional army was outnumbered and suffering heavy losses. The War Office needed men, and knew where to look.
Footballers and fans were a captive audience and ideal for war service. In December 1914, a new 17th Battalion of the London-based Middlesex Regiment was formed, specifically for professional and amateur players, and fans. They would be known as the Footballers' Battalion.
3. In training
The British Army had recognised the value of sport since the 1800s, but the First World War saw football become a key tool in preparing a new army of young civilians for life on the front line.
The nation’s favourite sport was used as an engaging and accessible way to build physical fitness in new recruits.
Football fostered unit solidarity and strengthened relationships between soon-to-be comrades. Loyalty and commitment to a battalion’s objectives would be valuable assets in a soldier.
Long periods of inactivity were part of a soldier's day to day life. Officers used football to instil positive habits in their men so they used their free time well: better they were running around make-shift pitches than the local taverns.
Mental fitness was as important as physical strength. Following the introduction of conscription and disastrous losses at the Battle of the Somme, playing games like football would help bolster battalion spirits.
4. At the front
Click on an image to hear how football formed a central part of the front line experience of WW1
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5. At home
Competitive, professional football continued to be played in Scotland throughout the war. But south of the border in England it was a different story.
At the end of the 1914/15 season the Football League suspended competition.
Sport makes way for war
Friendly matches still took place, but the big stadiums were now being used for the more pressing matter of fighting a war.
Tottenham Hotspur's White Hart Lane ground became a munitions factory. Staff working there made protective clothing for use by soldiers on the front line, such as leather hoods and 11 million gas masks. Production was mostly staffed by women.
Women take to the field
All over Britain women were doing crucial work in munitions, heavy engineering and ship-building. In their spare time this new army of workers was encouraged to play football – it would keep them fit, encourage team work, and boost morale.
Pulling in the crowds
Women's teams were formed across the country. The most famous was Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC. In 1917, their first major game drew a crowd of 10,000 to Preston North End's Deepdale stadium. Their star player was Lilly Parr – 6ft tall and scorer of 1,000 goals.
Competitions, such as the Challenge Cup in the north-east, were formed. The Munitionettes’ Cup, as it was known, was won in 1918 by Blyth Spartans who beat a steelworks team from Teeside 5-0 at Middlesborough's Ayresome Park stadium in front of 22,000.
When the war ended and the soldiers returned home, the professional game in England resumed. Soon after, women's football was banned. But, throughout the country, football had found a new following.
6. Footballers at war
Thousands of professional footballers served in WW1, many of them recruited to set an example and attract more men to join up. But they weren't just there to make up the numbers.
Jermaine Jenas joins former team-mate Ledley King to discuss Walter Tull, one of Britain's first prominent black professional footballers and distinguished WW1 soldier.
7. A roll call of bravery
What happened to the players who gave up football and took up arms?