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What happened to sports when King George VI died in 1952? Football continued, but rugby was postponed

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What happened to sports when King George VI died in 1952? Football matches – including the North London derby – went on as the national anthem was sung before kick-off… but the Five Nations rugby match between England and Ireland was postponed

  • Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign means there’s no usual ‘protocol’ for sport after a monarch’s death
  • The closest guidance comes from when King George VI died in 1952
  • Matches in the fourth round of the FA Cup continued that evening, as did the league matches over the weekend
  • The king’s death came halfway through what was then the Five Nations Championship in rugby

Sporting events are being canceled following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and more are expected to follow as a period of national mourning begins.

The Cabinet Office has recommended sports organizations cancel events on the day of the state funeral, but there is no obligation for other days.

Nevertheless, the Premier League and EFL have postponed all games this weekend as ‘a sign of respect’.

Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign means there’s no usual ‘protocol’ for sport after a monarch’s death

Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign – the longest of any British monarch in history – means there is no common ‘protocol’ for what sport should do in these circumstances.

The best guidance we can take is from when Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, died in 1952.

He died on February 6, a Wednesday, and the FA Cup fourth round matches continued that evening.

Fulham and Newcastle observe a minute of silence after King George VI's death in 1952

Fulham and Newcastle observe a minute of silence after King George VI’s death in 1952

Craven Cottage supporters pay their respects as the football matches continue

Craven Cottage supporters pay their respects as the football matches continue

The weekend’s league matches at the pyramid also went ahead as scheduled, with the national anthem and Abide With Me – usually reserved only for the FA Cup final – sung before kick-off.

The Division One fixture list included the North London derby at White Hart Lane, which registered the weekend’s biggest attendance of 66,438.

The Spurs won 2-1 with goals from Don Roper and Alex Forbes, but the two clubs would finish the season on a tie – Tottenham in second place and Arsenal in third place behind champions Manchester United.

King George VI died in 1952 and was succeeded by Elizabeth, who was 25 at the time

King George VI died in 1952 and was succeeded by Elizabeth, who was 25 at the time

In cricket, the first test between New Zealand and the West Indies – both in the Commonwealth – went ahead from February 8.

Other sports have postponed events, including hockey and rugby.

The king’s death came midway through what was then the Five Nations Championship in rugby and led to the England v Ireland showdown at Twickenham being rescheduled in late March.

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