Football has often been described as a funny old game, where supporters wear their hearts on their sleeves and the result can be a matter of life or death. If you’re a fan of the beautiful game, you’ve no doubt been through a range of emotions during 90 minutes. But, one local football team has taken the whole life and death thing quite literally. Preston North End have a weird and wacky football funeral tradition that involves fans burying a coffin when the team are relegated and ‘raising’ it when they get promoted.
Taking place in Bamber Bridge, the procession is made up of fans in a variety of vibrant fancy dress, decorated floats and music.
Sound weird? It’s because it is.
When Did the Football Funeral Tradition Begin?
Today, not many people know where this eccentric football funeral tradition came from, however, it originated all the way back in 1948. It is said that when Preston North End were painfully relegated into Division 2, a local greengrocer buried a coffin full of vegetables to mourn the sorrowful event.
Since then, whenever Preston are relegated or promoted, there is a ceremonial ‘burial’ or ‘resurrection’ in Bamber Bridge.
The burial is meant to signify the season being laid to rest. The coffin will be exhumed when the club is next promoted.
The Burying or Raising of the Coffin
Traditionally, the coffin is paraded through the town and followed by a funeral style procession of colourful milk floats headed by dancers, bands, fire crews and people dressed in wacky fancy dress. Expect to see dozens of men dressed as nuns, a victor or two and some bishops.
The procession continues through the town until the coffin is taken to the cellar of the Trades Halls club in Bamber Bridge.
Before it is buried, the appointed ‘bishop of Brig’ says several verses, paying tribute to the football club and usually mocking the managers.
Similarly, when it is resurrected, the procession makes its way through the main streets of Bamber Bridge, celebrating the football club’s success.
Today, the football funeral tradition is upheld, with hundreds of people turning out to line the streets for a carnival style burial and everyone tries to catch a glimpse of the famous club branded ‘coffin’.
Recently the coffin was buried in 2011, when Preston North End were relegated to League One. The coffin was carried by ‘Brigadiers’, surrounded by men dressed as nuns and being led by a pretend bishop wearing a PNE mitre.
However, in 2015 it was raised again after they had an amazing season and were promoted to the championship.
It is surely the most unusual ritual in football, and the people of Preston love it!
We can’t wait to see if the coffin makes another appearance in the next few years.
5 Fun Facts About Preston North End
They were known as the first invincible’s. Preston North End may not be thought of as a giant of English football today, but they won the league and FA Cup in 1889 without losing a game all season. Only Arsenal have completed a top-division league campaign unbeaten since, in 2004.
Preston’s Deepdale stadium is said to be the oldest continuously used football league ground in the world.
Graham Hawkins famously lifted the Third Division trophy on the steps of the Harris Museum in 1971.
Famous legendary Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly once played for Preston. He now has a beautiful hotel called The Shankly Hotel in Liverpool city centre, it’s a wonderful tribute to his life and will soon have The Shankly Hotel in Preston.
When David Moyes took over management of a struggling Preston North End, he amazingly led Preston to the Division Two title in 1999–2000 and the Division One play-off final the following season.
If you’d like to learn a few more fun facts about Preston in general, check out our blog on some things Preston visitors may not know.
We hope you enjoyed are history of Preston’s weird and wacky football funeral tradition, can you think of any other football club around the world that follow such a unique ritual? Let us know in the comments on Facebook!