Continuing our dubiously researched tour of London's more evocative bus stop names.
Number 4: Wembley Triangle
Where: Next to Wembley Stadium station
Routes: 18, 83
The year is 1946. Not for the last time, Britain is in the grip of austerity. The Attlee government is embarking on its mission of national reconstruction. And, having just shown Gerry what for, there's a lovely sense of social unity, all presided over by that Cheryl Cole of the forties, Vera Lynn.
All this presents a worrying quandary for the sporting world. How, after all, in a country in which everyone wants to join hands and start bopping along to George Formby songs, can you expect anyone to start kicking the crap out of each other in a muddy playing field? Losing is now considered unpatriotic. So is attempting to win.
To make matters worse, no one has any money. Your average football club can no longer afford a ground and, even if it could, no one could afford to go and watch the bloody thing being used.
In early April, the minister for sport, Sir Guthrie Llewyllyn-Jones, came up with a solution. Why, he asked in his now famous speech to the FA, should only two sides be able to play in any given sporting fixture? By increasing the number of teams on the pitch, you could reduce the embarrassment of defeat, and make winning look like the sort of thing that could happen to any half decent bunch of chaps who weren't trying too hard. You could also increase the pool of potential spectators, thus enabling cash-strapped clubs to shore up their wobbling finances.
And so began London's brief craze for polygonal sporting venues. Twickenham Stadium was rebuilt as a pentagon. Centre Court at Wimbledon was recut as a square, allowing four competitors (eight, in doubles matches) to play simultaneously. Upton Park, meanwhile, to combat the serious deficiency of sporting venues then bedevilling the East End, reworked its pitch into a dodecagon, thus allowing the league to consolidate all its competitors into two easy matches.
This craze was tragically short-lived, however. Games quickly became hard to follow; results such as 2-2-1-nil-ni-nil-nil-nil were difficult to make sense of; and, in July 1947, following an incident in which 14 spectators were maimed off 18 balls during a single innings at the Oval, multi-team sporting events were finally abandoned entirely.
Today, Wembley Triangle is but a three-sided junction by Wembley Stadium station. Even the underground loos have long been filled in. But the name stands yet, as a testament to a time when three teams could play football at once, when sport was still genuinely sporting, and when we could all work together to build a better world.
Image courtesy of Pixelthing, taken from the Londonist Flickr pool under a creative commons licence
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