As well as being founder members of the Football League in 1888, the Premier League in 1992, and the first club to play 100 top-flight league seasons, Everton have been at the fore of all manner of innovations and firsts.
EVERTON WERE not the first club to use goal nets in their matches – they were first used at a match between Nottingham Forest v Bolton Wanderers in 1890 – but it was an Evertonian who dreamed up the idea. As Liverpool city engineer, John Brodie (1858– 1934) would find fame as the designer of the Mersey Tunnel and the Queens Drive ring road, but it was his most simple invention that was his most enduring gift to the world. Watching an Everton match in 1889, he saw the game erupt into controversy after the referee could not decide whether the ball had passed between the goalposts or not. The result was a ‘net pocket’, patented by Brodie, for ‘improvements in or applicable to goals used in football, lacrosse, or other like games’.
Today it might appear less salubrious than many of its more modernised neighbours, but Goodison is positively steeped in history. In 1892, when they left Anfield, Everton became the first English club to move into a purpose-built stadium. In 1894 Goodison was the first Football League ground to host an FA Cup Final.
In 1913 Goodison became the first ground visited by a reigning monarch. The first covered dugouts in England were installed in 1931. Seven years later, after Archibald Leitch designed renovations to the Gwladys Street end, Goodison became the country’s first continuously two-tiered ground.
In 1949 Goodison was the scene of England’s first defeat on home soil by a nation from beyond the home nations, namely the Republic of Ireland. In May 1958 Goodison became the first British ground to have undersoil heating installed. The current Main Stand, built in 1970, was the first triple-decker stand in Britain.
In 2006/07 Goodison became the first stadium to host 100 seasons of top-flight football.
First overseas tour
IN 1905 EVERTON set out on a groundbreaking tour of the Austro-Hungarian empire, in so doing becoming the first professional club to leave these shores. The three-week-long excursion took in seven games, including two exhibition matches against Tottenham Hotspur, then of the Southern League. In football’s early days, such games had a huge effect in arousing interest in the game beyond Britain. Four years later, in 1909, Everton and Spurs played the first ever professional game in South America, in so doing inspiring three different clubs – in Argentina, Uruguay and, most notably, Chile – to take Everton’s name.
Five match officials
IN SEPTEMBER 2009, the first Europa League match day was notable for the introduction of five match officials: a referee, two linesmen and two further officials positioned in the penalty area to watch for infractions and to check if the ball had crossed the line when a team had scored. Everton’s 4-0 win over AEK Athens at Goodison passed without the additional officials being tested by significant incidents.
Everton Free School
In November 2011 Britain’s coalition government announced that Everton would be the first football club in the country to have a school attached to it. Aimed at 14–19-year-olds its stated aim was to ‘use the power of sport to engage pupils and their wider families with an alternative learning experience’. Funded by the government and administered by Everton’s charitable arm, Everton in the Community, the school’s unveiling was hailed as a landmark for both the club and the local community. ‘This will represent a fantastic opportunity for Everton Football Club and its charitable arm, Everton in the Community, to further extend its reach into a wide variety of communities across the Merseyside region,’ said David Moyes. ‘It will, unquestionably, provide a real chance for some less-privileged, less-fortunate children to embrace – and benefit from – a high-quality education.’