Liverpool - Goodison Park

Mere Green Walton : L4 4EL Liverpool - Goodison Park : Map credit National Library of Scotland
Everton Football Club took out a seven year lease in 1892, on 5½ acres of land at Mere Green, Walton for £50 per year, from business man Christopher Leyland and the club went on to buy the land three years later. The site became known as Goodison Park and Everton FC built a stadium there at a cost of £4,750, creating which was, at that time, probably the best football ground in England. There was a cinder track along on edge of the pitch, but no cinder running or cycle track and the bicycle races were held on a grass.

The opening event at Goodison Park was a footballers' athletics meeting and firework display on August 24th 1892 and the first football match played there was on September 2nd, when Everton beat Bolton 4-2.

The first bicycle races at Goodison Park were advertised at a sports gala on February 2nd 1893, but it is not known if these were held. The first recorded bicycle race at was at the Everton FC sports meeting on May 27th 1893, which included 1 and 3 miles handicap races and a 2 miles scratch race. The 2 miles race was won easily by Bert Harris of the Polytechnic CC++ and his first prize was ten guineas. There were 7,000 spectators. Sporting Life described Everton's venue as good for accommodating large crowds but unsuitable for fast racing. There did not seem to be much bicycle racing at Goodison Park until the police annual sports moved there in 1900 after they lost their own ground to builders.

The Liverpool Police Athletic Society held their 11th annual sports for the first time at Goodison Park on July 7th 1900. There were four bicycle races over one and two miles. Many events were for personnel from various UK police forces who competed to gain points as a team for the Poole Challenge Shield and individuals, for the Waring Championship Shield. The racing was on a grass track, 5½ laps to the mile.

The Police sports on July 6th 1901 attracted a massive crowd of 30,000 spectators, but in 1903, the Athletic Society stopped policemen selling tickets directly to the public and attendance at the sports dropped to 15,000. The Police held their annual festival and sports at Goodison throughout the 1900's and the Chief Constable tried to make the event a social festival as well as a sporting event. There were a few other sports meetings at Goodison Park which included bicycle racing such as the Liverpool Working Men's Conservative Association sports.

In 1909, the Police Sports were not held, the Liverpool Daily Post described the reason for this as "the disturbed feeling in the city Wiseite prosecution." George Wise was a Protestant leader who stood in Liverpool local elections. His political meetings resulted in sectarian riots and Wise was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to 4 months imprisonment in 1909.

After 1910, Liverpool Police moved their sports meetings to their own new ground at Prescot Road, Fairfield and there was probably no more bicycle racing at Goodison Park after 1908.

++ Bert Harris turned professional in 1894 and was coached by Sam Mussabini (Harold Abraham's coach). Harris won several professional cycling championships and held the half and one mile national track records. During a race on Easter Monday 1897, Harris' wheel buckled and he struck his head on the track and died two days later. Tens of thousands of people attended his funeral.


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