NOT one Sunday home game features on the Warrington Wolves 2020 Super League fixture list unveiled this week.

There are five Sunday away days currently planned, while only 24 per cent of the 174 scheduled matches in the 25th season of summer rugby will be played in the traditional ‘rest day’ 3pm slot.

On the 50th anniversary of The Wire’s first home Sunday match, we delve into the history...

Sunday Service:

The date, Sunday, November 9, 1969, and The Wire played their first ever Sunday match, which finished: Warrington 29 Blackpool Borough 9

How it started:

In 1967, after a great deal of dithering, Sunday football was sanctioned by the RFL.

Despite strong objections from religious groups, the Sabbath was broken for the first time on December 17, 1967, when 10,377 saw Bradford Northern beat York 33-8, and 6,000 watched Alex Murphy’s Leigh defeat Dewsbury 15-10.

Laurie Gilfedder, a former Warrington favourite, scored a try and kicked three goals for Leigh while Joe Walsh, a future Wire winger, scored two tries for the home side.

Warrington played their first ever Sunday fixture away at Blackpool on January 5, 1969, and won 16-7 at Borough Park.

Brian Glover and Tommy Conroy scored the tries, with Jeff Bootle kicking five goals.

The management:

Warrington officials, however, were still very much against the idea of playing home games on the Sabbath.

But always there was the threat of the big Association football teams taking away support from Saturday games.

Ten months later, with the club’s finances coming under pressure, they relented.

Blackpool Borough were the opponents for the first of three Sunday home games on the league fixture list for season 1969/70.

The fans:

Saturday had always been game day, but now supporters were given a choice of Friday nights, since the introduction of floodlighting to the Wilderspool ground in 1965, and now Sundays.

Yes, times were different then, the supermarkets were closed and there was transport restrictions on a Sunday.

Supporters, that historical weekend, could watch rugby league live on TV on the Saturday as Grandstand was showing an entertaining Bradford Northern versus Featherstone Rovers clash.

Instead, for those that went to Wilderspool the following day, what they missed on the three TV channels available was: BBC1 – 1939 film Nurse Edith Cavell; BBC2 – was off air until 7pm; ITV – football highlights from the weekend, as well as an episode of University Challenge.

The players:

Many players did not favour Sunday matches, and in fact special terms had been agreed prior to the start of the 1969/70 season between the club and players for these games.

They knew when league games were going to take place on a Sunday, and the management were reluctant to change the dates of any fixtures, for any further Sunday games.

It didn’t affect training days, just that the players had a different day of rest.

Early conclusions:

Despite the poor weather conditions, as it had rained at the first two games, and the below average opposition, there had been a 37 per cent increase in attendance to that of the same fixtures the previous season – that had been played on nice days.

The final league game played that season on April 12, 1970, culminated in an embarrassing first ever home Sunday defeat – to Huyton, 9-6! However things were going to get worse.

The club weren’t yet convinced that Sunday was the game day, and the following season only a further three league games were played on the Sabbath, but all three would test the patience of both the management and supporters.

The first, on September 13, came after the team had opened the season with five straight defeats.

The opposition was lowly Huyton, and the spectators stayed away.

There was nothing to cheer for the then lowest crowd in living memory at Wilderspool, as only 1,893 passed through the gates to see The Wire struggle to a 12-9 victory, greatly helped by the opposition being reduced to 12 men when Gilly Wright was sent off 20 minutes from time.

The third Sunday home game of that season, in March 1971, saw Huddersfield gain their first victory at Wilderspool since 1923!

But the middle game that took place on Sunday, November 29, 1970, would become one of the most infamous in the club’s history.

The ultimate in demoralisation for supporters came when Salford scored their 50th point near the end against a shattered Warrington, who were unable to register a single point, with angry fans protesting long and loud during and after the match.

Moving on:

Things began to change for the 1971/72 season, when over 40 per cent of home games were played on a Sunday.

This increased the following season to three quarters. It was the death knell for the previously traditional Saturday fixture, so much so that by the 1974/75 season there were no Saturday games played at Wilderspool.

Sunday fixtures were seemingly here to stay, with the most in a season taking place in 1982/83 when 19 out of a scheduled 23 were on the day of rest, the reason being that the club’s floodlights had been damaged in the tragic main stand fire at the end of the previous season.

The third season of Super League, in 1998, saw the highest percentage of home games on a Sunday, with 10 of the 11 games being played on that day.

With satellite TV dictating the game days now, Sunday fixtures at The Halliwell Jones Stadium have seen a major decline, with three of the last four seasons favouring Friday night football, and in 2017 Saturday having a surprising resurgence.

Will we see the end of Sunday football?

First Sunday home game:

November 9, 1969: Warrington 29 Blackpool Borough 9

Wire team: Tommy Conroy; Conrad Barton, Paul Taylor, Willie Aspinall, Warren Ayres; Bobby Fulton, Parry Gordon; Ken Halliwell, Dave Harrison, Brian Brady, Peter Cannon, Arthur Hughes, Bill Pattinson. Subs: Phil Jones for Taylor 29mins, Len McIntyre.

Blackpool: Entwistle; Price, Hall, Colloby, Swift; Cassidy, Darbyshire; Hill, Egan, Clare, Watson, Walker, Farrell. Subs: Chadwick for Walker 60mins, Fairhurst for Farrell 73mins.

Referee: DS Brown (Preston)

Attendance: 3,535

It didn’t take long for the first Sunday try, the first minute!

Colloby snapped up a loose ball to go over by the posts, and also add the goal.

Darbyshire, trying to clear his own line, only succeeded in landing the ball straight into Aspinall’s hands and the centre put out a quick pass to Ayres who crossed in the corner.

Ayres sped in at the left corner again a few minutes later when a lob from Fulton and a Pattinson long pass sent the winger in.

Colloby kicked a penalty for offside and when the re-start went straight into touch, he banged over the resultant kick from halfway!

Just before the break an Aspinall penalty closed the score to 8-9.

Half-backs Gordon and Fulton were causing problems for the ‘Seasiders’ defence, and just after the break Hughes sent Gordon scurrying through from half-way before man-of-the-match Fulton finished off. Aspinall’s conversion went in off the post.

The same combination set up another Fulton try and Aspinall goaled.

Things got immeasurably worse for Blackpool when winger Price became the first Sunday sinner, when he was sent off for throwing a punch at Aspinall.

Fulton, only half-tackled, got a pass out to Brady who sent Ayres between the posts for his third try, but Aspinall missed the simple kick!

Gordon started off another scoring move from his own half, sending Pattinson tearing through. Hughes took a low pass well to cross.

Gordon was hauled down inches short and from the resultant play, Pattinson went over for the seventh try.

Compiled by Stanski and Gary Slater