Two shillings: worth of history Published on: 20-01-2011

Two shillings worth of history - Times of Malta

The league game between Sliema Wanderers and Valletta, on Sunday February 27, 1966, was drawing to an end with the score locked at 1-1 when referee J. Sawyer awarded Sliema a penalty.

This decision infuriated the City supporters. The players joined in the mayhem and pushed the referee with a rugby-sytle tackle. Stones rained onto the pitch, leaving the referee with no option but to abandon the game. The Blues were awarded the points and Valletta lost their share of gate money.

This incident exposed the unsuitability of the Manoel Island ground as a venue for league football. There was practically no security at the ground, making it easy for the fans to cause trouble.

Drama continued in the MFA league when, on one weekend, two matches were abandoned.

The Valletta-Birkirkara and Sliema Wanderers-Floriana en-counters were stopped because of crowd trouble and fighting between players.

Played on a one-round basis, the MFA league didn’t have the approval of the clubs and the public despite the fact that the eventual winners qualified for the European Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

This league went down in history as one of the most ill-fated competitions in the history of Maltese football.

The crowd disturbances during matches prompted the MFA to call an extraordinary general meeting.

It was eventually decided that, with immediate effect, any team found guilty of causing a match to be abandoned would be suspended for the remainder of the season, together with the players and club officials involved in the incident.

The ink had hardly dried on the new rule when an even more serious incident defied the authority of the MFA.

The incident, once again, involved Sliema and Valletta. The two teams met in what should have been the deciding match of the competition.

Sliema needed only one point from this match to secure the title but, after only four minutes, the Whites walked off the field when the referee awarded the Wanderers a penalty.

The Times headline

‘Two shillings worth of history’ was the headline in The Times on Monday, April 25, 1966, the day after the Malta FA league match between Sliema Wanderers and Valletta.

‘We want our money back’, shouted the crowd at Manoel Island, and who could blame them? The only valid reason for denying them their two shillings worth of football was the fact that they were seeing football history in the making.

This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The MFA Council, instigated by public opinion, took the unprecedented step of meting out a stiff punishment to Valletta.

Their players, committee and coach were handed bans and the club was demoted to the lowest division. It was a harsh but, perhaps, justified decision but one wonders why the the same action against Birkirkara and Floriana was not taken. The case created a lot of controversy and the MFA came under intense pressure.

At first, the MFA refused to re-open the case but when a new Valletta committee was formed the Council relented and Valletta were pardoned.

The irony of it all was that it was all in vain.

Malta’s UEFA Cup application was not accepted and it was only in season 1968-69 that Hibs became the first Maltese team to take part in the competition.

Source: Times of Malta - Carmel Baldacchino