Wedlock's Exemption 1918
William John "Billy" Wedlock (28 October 1880 – 25 January 1965), also known as "Fatty" or the "India Rubber Man", was a footballer who played for Bristol City in 1900–01 and from 1905 until his retirement in 1921. He was a centre-half whose his short and stout stature belied his natural talent. He won 26 England caps between 1907 and 1914, his only rival for the centre-half position being Charlie Roberts of Manchester United, his opposite number in the 1909 FA Cup Final. The East End at Ashton Gate Stadium is named the Wedlock Stand in his honour. Wedlock's pub (now demolished) opposite the ground was where he lived and worked for 43 years. the late Folk singer Fred Wedlock was Billy's grandson.
When war was declared on 4 August 1914, it was expected that the Football Association (FA) would follow the example soon set by cricket and cancel all matches. But, despite opposition, matches were played in the Football League throughout the 1914-1915 season and the FA Cup held as normal. For the remainder of the war, the Football League suspended its programme but allowed clubs to organise regional competitions.
Much of the opposition to the continuance of professional football stemmed from the concern that many men preferred to play and watch football rather than join up. However, football was also seen as a useful recruiting tool.
Football was also a popular form of recreation for troops on both sides and could boost morale. On 1 July 1916, men of the East Surrey Regiment, encouraged by Captain ‘Billie’ Nevill even went over the top kicking footballs. This was probably intended as a distraction for nervous young soldiers but was widely reported as a demonstration of British pluck.
Many professional footballers served in the forces. Those killed in action included former Tottenham Hotspur player Walter Tull and Bradford Park Avenue’s Donald Bell – the only professional footballer to be awarded the Victoria Cross.