The freedom we enjoy today was hard-won by our ancestors who fought and died for us during the First World War.

The sheer scale of sacrifice is unimaginable in today’s world. The horrific events impacted both professional and amateur footballers across the country who swapped the touchline for the trenches. Mothers and daughters also took up roles in munitions factories at stadiums and formed their own football teams to support fundraising for the war time effort.

Remembering legendary players

The Greater Game explored the continuation of football at home, the controversy of the 1914/15 season and the role football played at home and at the front during the war years. From the FA Cup winner killed just days before the end of war to the soldier injured in battle that fought back to be England captain.

Legendary players and military heroes included Walter Tull of Northampton Town the first black officer in the British Army promoted through his footballing talent and Donald Simpson Bell of Bradford Park Avenue stories featured.

Almost every team in the league today sent players to the front between 1914 and 1918 and some never returned. Those that did had their lives changed forever. In partnership the National Football Museum and Woodland Trust are making sure that the heroic efforts of those brave footballers, 100 years ago, are never forgotten through; For Club and Country!

For Club and Country is offering supporters of every generation, clubs, supporter trusts, County FA’s the opportunity to learn more about your club’s involvement in the First World War, plant trees in commemoration and by doing so creating a digital supporters roll of honour. We’re delighted National Football Museum Vice President, Sir Trevor Brooking CBE, is the For Club and Country Ambassador.

For Club and Country is part of the Woodland Trust’s £20m Centenary Woods commemorative project. The Patron is Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal. Partners include Sainsbury’s, Combined Cadet Forces, Army Cadet Force and Air Cadets.

Centenary Woods is part of the Imperial War Museum's First World War Centenary Partnership and the Remember WW1 campaign. To date we have already planted 1 million trees in commemoration with schools, communities and partners across the UK.

The For Club and Country concept was inspired by First World War commemoration taking place across football and the Centenary Wood project a few examples I list below.

Leicester City & John Hutchinson

2015/16 Premier League champions Leicester City FC; Historian John Hutchinson has led the way in club’s First World War commemoration. In 2014 he created a 26 part online series of the Foxes First World War history. John is a regular contributor in match day programmes as part of the clubs heritage section.

John also made a feature film in 2014 ‘Foxes Remembered’ with Club Manager at the time Nigel Pearson and Club Ambassador, Alan Birchenall MBE. This included a trip to Ypres to locate the graves of Leicester Fosse footballing heroes.

Leicester City FC has kindly provided the commemorative first team film For Club and Country website. This film includes Club Captain Wes Morgan and top goal scorer Jamie Vardy. We hope the sixty clubs featured in For Club and Country will replicate their own commemorative video to include on their own club page.

Football Remembers

Football Remembers was an excellent educational commemorative learning resource in partnership with the British Council, Football League, Premier League. The concept was created by former Scunthorpe Forward and ex Para trooper, Phil Stant. Football remembers focused around the ‘Christmas Truce’ and engaged key stage children.

The Greater Game

Finally Football in the First World War featured as part of The Greater Game exhibition. Iain McMullan the creator has developed a comprehensive database of players, clubs they played for, regiments they served for and when they sadly died. This website is now funded by the Professional Footballer’s Association, Woodland Trust and is partner of For Club and Country.

For Club and Country

All of the above mentioned were incredibly inspirational.

Football is a powerful way of linking past and present for today’s generation. As the years pass, memories of football’s role in the First World War have begun to fade.

During and after the conflict, trees were planted in remembrance, marking the loss of life and the sacrifices made. This is why we feel strongly about continuing this tradition by creating living memorials as a fitting tribute to football’s involvement.

Sixty clubs who played a part of the conflict are featured on the For Club and Country website and will be commemorated at the Woodland Trust’s First World War Centenary Wood – Langley Vale, in Surrey.

The website provides a snapshot of First World War history including the famous Footballers’ Battalion, The Women’s Game and a timeline.

By the end of November 1914, and as a result of discussions between the FA and the War Office, a Footballer’s Battalion, also known as the 17th Middlesex, was created. It was hoped that the unit would encourage young men to enlist and prove to the country that football was a significant contributor in the war effort.

Unlike cricket and rugby, football didn’t cease with immediate effect when the First World War broke out. This caused controversy but by the end of the war in 1918, it is believed that around 900 of the 4,500 soldiers to have enlisted or served with the Footballer’s Battalion had lost their lives during the effort.

The Footballers' Battalion is remembered today with a memorial in the village of Longueval, just outside Delville Wood, featuring the words of Colonel Henry Fenwick:

I knew nothing of professional footballers when I took this battalion. But I have learnt to value them. I would go anywhere with such men. Their esprit de corps was amazing. This feeling was mainly due to football – the link of fellowship which bound them together. Football has a wonder grip on these men and on the Army generally.

Women’s football matches were played to support fund the wartime effort and whilst the men’s game was suspended the game became increasingly popular to boost moral on the home front. Nearly 100 years on from the 1921 ban the women’s football the game is once again at the height of its popularity.

The sixty clubs featured on the For Club and Country website, exhibition and film represent clubs from across the Premier League through to the Southern Counties league. Each of the sixty club pages feature; First World War first team squad picture, featured player biography, the clubs roll of honour of footballing heroes, league position the season before football stopped and an interesting fact you might know about your club.

Make sure that your club is remembered in this living tribute. Just £5 will go towards your team’s very own woodland grove. By making a donation, your name will be included on the supporters’ roll of honour as one of those involved in creating this lasting commemorative physical and digital legacy across English football.

Once the First World War commemorations conclude in 2018 your name will form part of a permanent exhibition at the National Football Museum for future generations to see.

The National Football Museum

When you’re next in Manchester it’s free to visit the National Football Museum. Until early 2019 you’ll be able to watch the For Club and Country trailer narrated by Sir Trevor Brooking CBE, interact with the commemorative exhibition which includes Donald Simpson Bell’s Victoria Cross medal.

Let’s create football’s living commemorative legacy. Together we aim to plant thousands of trees in commemoration to create living memorials for our footballing heroes in beautiful woodlands for future generations to enjoy.

Watch the full-length For Club and Country commemorative film and sign up so your name is included as part of the supporters roll of honour.

~ Dan Routt works in relationship development at the Woodland Trust the UK's largest woodland conservation charity and the leading voice for woods and trees.