By Tony Attwood
We can now have a look at the attendance figures from 1920/1 and compare them with earlier times. All the figures are taken from European Football Statistics. Below that there is the usual list of players who played 10+ games in the league in the season.
A quick look back at how attendance figures had evolved over the years before the war compared to the season we have just reviewed gives an indication of football’s health. The attendances for both the first and second divisions were all time records, with each post-war year breaking all the pre-war records.
Indeed, excluding the 1914/15 season, which was conducted for the most part in wartime, the first division average attendance across the whole season was up by over 8000.
As for Arsenal the evolution of the club was quite extraordinary.
Prior to the disastrous 1912/13 season when Arsenal were relegated Arsenal were jogging along with crowds of mostly 11,000+. The move to Highbury took that crowd level up to 22000+, and the return to the first division in 1919 took the club up to 34,000+. If ever a ground move was vindicated, Norris’ decision to choose Highbury as the new location for the club had been fully justified.
Arsenal were not the most supported team in the country, but they were on the way.
|Season||Av Div 1||Av Div 2||Highest av crowd||Av crowd||Arsenal av|
|1914/5||13,596||6,364||Manchester City||20,205||13,820 (3)|
(1) Arsenal relegated
(2) First season at Highbury, challenging for promotion
(3) Second season at Highbury, but affected by outbreak of war in November 1914.
The outbreak of war in November 1914 savagely cut the crowds, particularly in the south of England, as the league continued. Many prominent figures (for example Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous for his Sherlock Holmes stories) argued vociferously against the continuation of football that season, and indeed wanted to abolition of the war leagues thereafter. However the war leagues continued with small crowds for the most part, and few millionaire newspaper owners thought to compare the closing down of the Leagues with the fact that horse racing, “the sport of kings” continued without let or hindrance all the way through the war.
But the public, at least the male proportion of the public, wanted their football back, and as we have seen, crowd numbers for the final wartime league, which continued after the end of the war, became much, much higher. With the return of professional leagues, numbers immediately shot up to record levels.
The figures for the top 10 clubs in 1920/1 (all of which were in the first division) show a positive growth for all except Chelsea who having come third in 1919/20 now slipped down to 18th (although they were still the second best supported club in the country). This was both because of their huge ground, and the lack of proximity of any other first division clubs within the capital or to the west or south.
In essence a large local population and success on the pitch brought in the crowds. Here are the crowd figures for 1920/1.
The top Division 2 team in terms of crowds was Birmingham with 31,525, who also won the league. Cardiff City who came second in the league were also the second most supported club in the 2nd Division. Wales had within two years gained its first ever league club, and now had gained its first ever First Division club.
The average attendance for each league was
|Division Three||10,929||(New league)|
Clearly all league attendances were up, not least because of the continual return of troops who had been fighting in the first world war throughout the Empire. Although the war ended in November 1918, it took a very long time to bring everyone who survived back home.
If we look back a year to 1919/20 we see the immediate impact on the end of war and return to professionalism in club football…
|8||West Bromwich Albion||1||29.025||165,2%|
And this historical perspective shows the overall growth. As mentioned above we should always remember that 1914/15 numbers were low because of the outbreak of war in November 1914.
|Season||Div 1 av||Div 2 av||Div 3 av||Top club||Top club av|
Looking at these figures there is no doubt that the club owners would have been happy to see the progress, and they may well have expected it to continue.
For Arsenal in particular the growth in numbers meant that the club was able to start paying back some of its debt to Sir Henry Norris, something he was probably very happy to see. In rescuing Arsenal from extinction he had taken a huge gamble, a gamble that looked as if it were doomed to failure, by the outbreak of war in 1914. And yet despite all the setbacks, here he was, now ready to claim back some of the money he had invested, while also selling off more shares in Arsenal.
Finally below is the list of all the players who played 10 or more league games in the season.
Despite the fact that the club was not a high scoring team, we still had two players who got into double figures in league matches.
Below is a list of some of the key elements from this series. A full index of all the articles is published here.
Perhaps the most popular element in the Norris story is that of Arsenal’s promotion to the first division in 1919. The most complete review of this, which puts right the numerous misunderstandings of the events of that year appears, and most importantly cites contemporary articles and reports, such as the minutes of the FA meeting where the promotion was confirmed, and the reports in local papers thereafter, here in these two sets of articles…
- April 1915: New revelations concerning perhaps the most important month in Arsenal’s history
- November / December 1915: the match fixing scandal comes to the fore: Norris is armed
The voting and the comments before and after the election
- 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?
The Second Libel
The Third Allegation
The Fourth Allegation
Did Henry Norris really beg Leslie Knighton to stay and offer him the hugest bonus ever?