By Tony Attwood
Arsenal started the month in 13th position in the league, knowing full well where their problems lay – at home. Below is the home league table thus far.
|3||West Bromwich Albion||15||12||0||3||48||17||2.824||24|
|14||Bradford Park Avenue||15||7||3||5||25||14||1.786||17|
Away from home Arsenal were ninth. Quite what the problem was at home, I don’t know, but we might have been seeing here an early incarnation of the boo-boys that Chapman railed against.
|1||West Bromwich Albion||15||9||1||5||32||21||1.524||19|
|4||Bradford Park Avenue||14||5||5||4||25||25||1.000||15|
Meanwhile, still with football but now in the House of Commons, Sir Henry asked a question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer concerning the entertainment tax that had been added to the price of admission to football matches during the war. His question was quirky, using a technique that we often see in Parliament today.
The first question asked how much money was gathered by the state by levying the tax on football matches. As his follow up he asked the cheeky question as to whether the government would help football pay for the costs of collecting this tax by the government.
What we have to remember in relation to this was that the government was still fairly naïve on the issue of tax collection related to purchases, for purchase tax itself was still 20 years away, and there was still a huge amount of anger at companies and organisations being unpaid tax collectors on behalf of the government. We’ve all got used to it since, of course, with VAT being part of our everyday lives, but in 1920 having a tax collected by the retailer was something new, and something that was expected to be used only during wartime – which is what in effect the government had promised.
On 5 March Sir Henry moved the second reading of the Ready Money Football Betting Bill which we noted in last month’s account of his activities and which was about to bring about an interesting meeting.
On 6 March Arsenal were away to Sheffield United and suffered a further defeat, this time 0-2. in front of 25,000 people. As we noted at the head of this page, Sheffield United were in excellent form at home, although with a poor away record that had reduced them overall to midtable.
And this was where the worrying began, because results elsewhere meant that Arsenal had slipped down the table yet again, and were now 14th. They were still eight points above the relegation zone, but there was quite a bit of the season left to play.
Now it was sometimes from here onto the start of the 1920/21 season that, according to evidence Sir Henry gave to the FA in 1927, he was approached at the House of Commons by a stranger who offered the MP money if Sir Henry would ensure that the Ready Money Football Betting Bill didn’t become law.
It is fairly obvious that Sir Henry, an MP, friend of the leading figure in the FA, already the equivalent of being a millionaire today, and a man who was held in esteem by such commentators as those at Athletics News, and the man who had been the first to warn the League about the wrong doing of Liverpool, long before he was believed, was going to turn this down. But, according to the story, the stranger then went on to say that if Sir Henry did not agree, the man would have him de-selected from the Conservative party nomination for Fulham East.
There is nothing much to back up this tale, except that in the summer of 1920 Athletics News reported that the gambling firms were campaigning against the bill. But then they would hardly do otherwise.
On 13 March the return match with Sheffield United took place, and this time for once Arsenal got a resounding victory at Highbury; 3-0. With only five of the XI who started the season now in the side, there was another right back introduced (Shaw having been injured again in the first game against Sheffield Utd). Thus we had the first game for Jack Peart.
The Islington paper commented that the paper was pleased to see the club sticking by its own young players, and Peart was in this category, having been with Woolwich Arsenal from the start of his career in 1910. During the war years he had played for Croydon Common and Brentford (probably because of where he lived or worked during the war), but had returned to Arsenal, although only to play six games before moving on to Margate. That he went anywhere at all is perhaps surprising because at the time of his return to the Arsenal line up he was 36 years old.
The goals came from Pagnam (2) and Graham (now at inside right) getting the other.
The following Monday, 15 March the first ever international was played at Highbury. The result was England 1 Wales 2, and it was Wales’ first victory against England in 38 years. England’s goal came from Charlie Buchan.
Next up for Arsenal was another away game – this time against Middlesbrough. Before the game Middlesbrough were one point and two places below Arsenal with a very modest home record but they won this game 1-0. The result left Arsenal in 14th, but only four above the relegation positions. It also meant Arsenal had won just two in the last six, losing the other four.
On 22 March Sir Henry was in Fulham Town Hall to discuss the Railways Bill, the aim of which was to pay for the work on the railways and the employees successful strike for higher wages, by increasing fares on the London commuter routes – which of course included the journey from Fulham into the City of London now used by thousands of workers.
For the first time, Sir Henry sat on the same platform as the Labour politician and trade unionist, Bob Gentry, who had taken his seat in the last elections and was now Mayor of the borough. In his speech Sir Henry described higher wages as a fact of post-war life, and having opposed the cap on footballers wages he had shown himself to be a man who would argue for what he believed in all circumstances.
Also around this time the Norris family moved out of Richmond, and to Maidenhead, with Sir Henry also taking on a flat in central London which was clearly going to be helpful both for Parliamentary sessions, constituency business in Fulham and football meetings and events at Highbury.
The final match of the month was on 27 March and was the return match with Middlesbrough, and this time Arsenal won 2-1 with Blyth and Groves scoring and 25,000 in the crowd.
On 29 March Fulham’s War Memorial Fund Committee met but Sir Henry did not attend – I suspect he may have been in Parliament (there are no records of members who were in Parliament but who did not speak in a debate).
Sally Davis has undertaken one of her masterful pieces of detective work by finding Sir Henry’s letter of apology, in which he says “that he thought the whole project should be abandoned in the face of public apathy. He said that insufficient money had been raised to fulfil the original plan.” A proposal was put forward that the money should be used to “finance the Fulham District Nursing Association, which Edith Norris was very closely associated with and which had (in the original plan) been going to take some but not all of the proceeds.”
Certainly two days later I suspect Sir Henry was in Parliament for the second reading of the Government of Ireland Bill which would set up the division of Ireland into two constituent parts – not least because of was the main political topic of the moment. It was of particular importance because the government were in favour of the division of the island but the unionists saw this as a betrayal of unionists in the south and west of Ireland.
Here are the Arsenal results for the month
The Henry Norris Files Section 1 – 1910.
- Part 1. How Arsenal fell from grace.
- Part 2: heading for liquidation and the first thought of moving elsewhere
- Part 3: March and April 1910 – the crisis deepens
- Part 4: the proposed mergers with Tottenham and Chelsea.
- Part 5: The collapse of Woolwich Arsenal: how the rescue took shape.
- Part 6: It’s agreed, Arsenal stay in Plumstead for one (no two) years
- Part 7: Completing the takeover and preparing for the new season
- Part 8: July to December 1910. Bad news all round.
Section 2 – 1911
Section 3 – 1912
- 11: 1912 and Arsenal plan to move away from Plumstead
- 12: How Henry Norris chose Highbury as Arsenal’s new ground
- 13: Amid protests from the locals Arsenal’s future is secured
- 14: Arsenal relegated amidst allegations of match fixing
Section 4 – 1913
- How Henry Norris secured Highbury for Arsenal in 1913.
- Norris at the Arsenal: 1913 and the opening weeks at Highbury
- When Highbury opened, and “Victoria Concordia Crescit” was introduced
- The players who launched Arsenal’s rebirth and Arsenal’s games in October 1913.
- The rebirth of Arsenal after the move to Highbury: November 1913.
- December 1913, the alleged redcurrent shirts, and Chapman comes to Highbury for the first time
Section 5 – 1914
- Arsenal’s first ever FA Cup match at Highbury and a challenge for promotion: Jan 1914
- Arsenal February and March 1914; the wall falls down, the team slips up.
- The end of Woolwich Arsenal and of the first season at Highbury.
- Arsenal at the end of the world: May to August 1914.
- The newly named The Arsenal start their first season and go top of the League
- As the death toll mounts Arsenal keep playing: October 1914
- November 1914: The Times journalist goes to a reserve match without realising it.
- December 1914: The Footballers’ Battalion formed by Arsenal chairman and others
Section 6 – 1915
- January 1915: Arsenal players start to leave their club for their country
- Arsenal in February and March 1915: the abandonment of football is announced and the result is… curious
- April 1915: New revelations concerning perhaps the most important month in Arsenal’s history
- Norris promoted, the League loses interest but football pulls itself back together.
- Arsenal move into the London Combination in September 1915
- Arsenal in wartime: Norris’ genius for administration comes to the fore but reduces Arsenal’s playing staff.
- November / December 1915: the match fixing scandal comes to the fore: Norris is armed
Section 7: – 1916
- Arsenal in wartime: January 1916. The end of the first wartime league.
- Arsenal, February 1916: the 2nd league and a terrible tragedy on the pitch
- Arsenal: March – May 1916. The team in decline, entry to football taxed for the first time.
- Arsenal wartime league tables and player appearances: 1915/16
- Arsenal at war; Tottenham move out of WHL, Arsenal hit rock bottom. June to Sept 1916.
- Arsenal Oct 1916: a tragic death, a slow recovery
- Arsenal in wartime: November and December 1916
Section 8: 1917
- January 1917: Arsenal’s upturn continues, gang culture in London, turmoil in Russia.
- Arsenal in February 1917: Arsenal on the up, George Allison’s contribution.
- Arsenal – March 1917. Measles, price rises, women start to serve.
- Arsenal in April and May 1917. Norris goes missing, Arsenal continue winning.
- Norris at the Arsenal: Arsenal Players in the wartime league, 1916/17
- Henry Norris is knighted for setting up the Footballers’ Battalion. June 1917
- Sir Henry Norris promoted to Lt Colonel in recognition of his work in the War Office
- September 1917: Arsenal’s form definitely on the up.
- October 1917: Arsenal slip into sharp decline; Norris gains a new appointment
- Arsenal at the end of 1917. Crowds collapse, results poor, the war drags on.
Section 9: 1918 and the end of the war
- Arsenal in 1918: Chapman’s downfall, votes for women, schooling for all, Arsenal erratic
- Norris at the Arsenal: March 1918, crowds drop, rationing, the war turns
- April 1918: the third wartime league ends; Ireland rebels against conscription.
- The 1917/18 season; Arsenal’s players and the final league table
- Autumn 1918: Arsenal winning, the war grinds to an end, crowds return
- November 1918: war ends, FA / League quarrel, Henry Norris is called on (again).
- Norris at the Arsenal. 1-10 December 1918; allegations of corruption heard in court.
- Arsenal, 11 – 31 December 1918. A 9-2 victory, the chairman becomes an MP, footballers unionise.
Section 10: 1919, the reform of football, the promotion of The Arsenal.
- The first suggestion that Arsenal could be elected to the 1st division.
- Arsenal in January 1919: rioting in the streets and the question of promotion
- What the media said about the election of Arsenal to the 1st division in 1919
- Arsenal prepare for the vote on who should be promoted to the First Division
- March 1919: The vote to extend the league and what the media said
- Why did the clubs vote for Arsenal rather than Tottenham in March 1919?
- Arsenal in March 1919: the London Victory Cup and its consequences
- April 1919: the end of wartime football (at least for 20 years)
- May 1919: war football ends and the wonderful Alf Baker is signed
- Summer of 1919. Widespread rioting as Arsenal prepare for division 1.
- August 1919: Arsenal return to the First Division for the next 99 years
- Arsenal establish themselves in the Division 1 amidst scandal, profiteering and strikes.
- October 1919: Chapman banned for life, Leeds kicked out, Whittaker joins
- November 1919: Arsenal solid but in debt, Labour advances, another goalscorer, Norris honoured.
- 1919: The first Christmas for the new expanded league
Section 11: 1920 – the second half of the first post-war season