The Premier League, Football League and The FA have joined forces with the British Council to create Football Remembers, a huge national commemoration supported by the Duke of Cambridge, that will mark this year’s centenary of the Christmas Truce – one of the most iconic moments of the First World War.
Every team in the Premier League and Football League as well as all 24 England sides will mark the centenary, right through to the grassroots – with every FA-registered club, County FA and UK primary and secondary school being asked to join in a series of activities between now and December 2014. Any football team in the UK and around the world will be welcome to participate.
The first two of these activities are launched today with the aim of engaging a new generation of young people about what took place on Christmas Day in Flanders in 1914. The four partners have launched a Football Remembers education pack that will be sent to more than 30,000 schools across the UK through the British Council.
It includes resources to help children learn about the Truce – including eye-witness accounts, photos, drawings and letters from soldiers some of which have never been published before.
The pack includes perspectives from British, French, Belgian, German and Indian witnesses and is accompanied by specially written activities for English, modern foreign languages, drama, art, sport, history, moral education and conflict resolution. Pupils are encouraged to consider the significance of the Christmas Truce today.
The Duke of Cambridge – President of The FA – is backing another unique Football Remembers project. Schools and Football Academies are being asked to design a memorial to the football played during the Truce.
The permanent memorial will be built at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The winning design will be chosen by the Duke and Arsenal and England forward Theo Walcott. The memorial will be formally unveiled in December.
HRH The Duke of Cambridge said: “The British Council, together with The F.A., Premier League and Football League, have put together a tremendous resource for use in the classroom and at home. It promises to be a powerful way to engage and educate young people about such an important moment in our history.
We all grew up with the story of soldiers from both sides putting down their arms on Christmas Day, and it remains wholly relevant today as a message of hope over adversity, even in the bleakest of times.”
The British Council’s Chief Executive, Sir Martin Davidson, said: “For a brief moment in history, the Christmas Truce showed how people-to-people connections can triumph at a time of global crisis. This year’s centenary is a valuable opportunity for a new generation to learn about that historic moment and the First World War more widely – the consequences of which continue to shape the world today, and the way in which people overseas view the UK. We want every school in the country to get involved.”
FA Chairman, Greg Dyke, said: “Having just been to visit the battlefields and memorial sites in northern France, I saw at first hand just how much a part football played in the First World War. The scale of the loss is unthinkable and it is only right and fitting the game comes together to pay tribute to those that made the ultimate sacrifice.
“By bringing the story of the Christmas Truce to life for a new generation, we can also remind how football can be a positive force in bringing people together – even at the worst of times.
"All at The FA will be involved in the commemorations and I would like to pay special tribute to our President, HRH The Duke of Cambridge for his personal support – particularly with the memorial design competition which I hope will really capture young people’s imagination.”
The Football League’s Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey said: “The forthcoming centenary gives us the opportunity to mark the extraordinary sacrifice made by millions of people of all nationalities during the Great War. They include many people that were connected with our clubs and competition from players and administrators to referees and supporters. We are delighted to be part of this initiative as football can play an important role in ensuring that their memory and the lessons learned from this conflict are never forgotten.”
First World War and Sports Minister, Helen Grant said: “When both sides laid down their arms at Christmas and played football, they showed how sport can overcome even the biggest divide. The Football Remembers educational pack is a fantastic way to reconnect young people with that moment and with a war that risks feeling so distant.
"The letters, photographs and mementoes vividly tell the story of what happened in the words of those who lived it. It is fitting then that, from playing fields and playgrounds to the world stage, football will once again unite us, this time in remembrance.”
Research released by the British Council earlier this year confirmed the Christmas Truce as one of the most recognised moments of the First World War – with more than two thirds of UK adults aware of the football matches that took place.