How Arsenal was publicised in 1934

Continuing my recent theme on programmes, by 1934 Arsenal’s programme had grown.  It cost 2d (under 1p in today’s money) and had a cover that said “Official programme Season 1933-34” but didn’t say which match it related to.  The back cover was a map of the London underground system.

This last was because a major selling point that Arsenal used inside saying…

Arsenal Football Club

London’s oldest Football League Club






You can book to either Arsenal or Drayton Park from any station including…


I wonder if this was part of the deal that included the change of the name of Gillespie Road station to Arsenal?

Certainly there is a slightly aggressive element in the advertising – pointing out by implication that the likes of Chelsea were not even formed until 1905 and Tottenham did not join the League until 1908 (as opposed to our 1893).  Of course the advertising ignores the fact that Arsenal were actually in Kent until 1913, although if we are going down that route we might add I suppose that Tottenham were in Middlesex until the 1960s.

But it is all a technical point – Woolwich Arsenal, The Arsenal, Arsenal – they were the same club (allowing for the fact that a new company was formed in 1910 – details of course in Making the Arsenal)

The programme for April 7th 1934 opens with an article about how Huddersfield had been elected to the league in 1910 in place of Grimsby and had gone on to greatness under Herbert Chapman.

The centre spread now has the teams lined up across the two pages, and below there are the half time scores (with the famous Highbury lettering system referred to – it used to stretch around two corners of the ground – you looked in the programme to see that – for example – A was Reading Reserves against Arsenal Reserves, and the half time score was shown against A).

Very helpfully the programme adds…

Letters out of your view on the one side will be within your view on the other.

I’d never have noticed.

Arsenal are shown as played in Red shirts with white collars and sleeves, and white knickers (and as per my last post, that is not a fetish on my part).

Then there are two league tables, the first showing Football League Division 1, and the second the London Combination.  Under the former it says (each club plays 42 matches) and for the latter (each club plays 46 matches).

On this day Arsenal were top of both leagues. In Division 1 the table reads…

1st Arsenal played 36, 50 points

2nd Huddersfield player 36, 48 points.

(Two points for a win, one for a draw.)

As a tiny point of detail, but one which had me puzzled for two minutes is that the convention at that time was to list the columns as played, won, lost, drawn… rather than the current convention of played, won, drawn, lost.

Bottom of the league were Chelsea in 21st and Sheffield United in 22nd

In the Combination Arsenal were eight points clear of Brentford having played 39 games and scored 110 goals.

To the right of the tables is the advert for the Next Home Matches. This reads…

Wed Apr 11th Kick off 3.15pm

Football League Challenge Cup Competition, Southern Section, Semi-Final Round.  Norwich City v Torquay United.  Admission 1/- (including tax).  Stand extra.  All pay.

Sat April 14th Kick off 3.30pm: Watford.  London Combination.  Admission 7d (including tax).

1/- is one shilling (now 5p) and 7d would be around 2p.

Quite what “All pay” implies (other than “and don’t you come along claiming to be a season ticket holder because it won’t work and we’ve heard that sort of trick before) I have no idea.

It is interesting that at this time the kick-offs got later and later as the spring moved into summer.  There were no floodlit games and so the starting time of football went back in the winter to 2.15pm (just about the latest you could start with any hope of having the game completed in the light), and moved forward to 3.30pm.  I am not sure if it got any later than this.

By the 1950s while some games started at 3.15 in the late summer and spring most were starting no later than 3pm, which is where they stayed (apart from evening games under floodlights) until the advent of Sky TV.

It is also interesting that by 1934 the programme included the Programme of Music by Arsenal Band (nine popular numbers ranging from the Barber of Seville to “Let’s all sing like the Birdies Sing”.)  The Finsbury Park Empire was still there, and on this day actually had a seriously famous line up including as the top three acts…

  • Elsie and Doris Waters
  • Max Miller
  • Tommy Handley Company

Major Sir Samuel Hill Wood Bart, DL, JF was listed as chairman on the front.

Arsenal beat Huddersfield 3-1 in front of 55,930 with Beasley, Bowden and Drake scoring, and went on to win the league for the second year running.  The manager was J Shaw (see earlier articles on this site), Herbert Chapman having passed away on 6 January that year.

Top crowd for the season is shown as being 69,070 for the match on 30 March against Derby County.

The Arsenal History Site – index of articles

Untold Arsenal – car parks, apostrophes, and occasional Arsenal too

Arsenal Worldwide

4 Replies to “How Arsenal was publicised in 1934”

  1. The Finsbury Park Empire was still open in the late fifties – I don’t know when it closed because I was in the R.A.F. and went overseas
    – when I got back in 1964 it was closed. Pity.

  2. I can’t find a reference to when the Finsbury Park Empire closed — not that I’d ever heard of it until just now, being an American — but I found one source that says it was still open in 1963 for a Christmas show by the Beatles, hosted by Australian entertainer Rolf Harris. Sounds like Dave may have juuuust missed it.

  3. Has Arsenal ever been relegated from the old first division? Somebody mentioned that they were relegated but never kicked a ball in a lower league, because they were voted back in the first division.

  4. Aidan – you’ll find lots of articles here about this, but in summary it goes like this.

    In 1913 Woolwich Arsenal FC (so not technically Arsenal) came bottom of the 1st division in their final season in Plumstead, and were duly relegated. They moved to Highbury that summer, and played two seasons in the 2nd before the league was abandoned in 1915 owing to the little matter of the first world war.

    In 1919 the clubs met together to decide on a new format for the league on the resumption of the competition. Arsenal (no longer Woolwich Arsenal or The Arsenal) had come 5th in the second division in 1915.

    The league decided to extend the 1st division by two clubs. Arsenal also raised the issue of match fixing by Man U and Liverpool in 1915 which had been investigated and proved by the League, and demanded those clubs be thrown out. Tottenham who had come bottom of the first division asked to be given a place back in the league (for no particular reason) and Chelsea (one from bottom) asked the same, on the grounds that they were only relegated because of the match fixing.

    The long and the short of it was that Chelsea stayed up, Tottenham went down, leaving 3 spaces in the enlarged first division. The top two teams from 1915’s second division went up along with Arsenal – it was done on a secret vote by chairman.

    This picking and choosing of teams to go up and down was very common and happened with each expansion, and indeed each season at the foot of the league where clubs were kicked out and reintroduced regularly.

    So the answer is: two years played in the second division in 1913 to 1915, both at Highbury. See the home page of this site for an index and articles on the “Fixed Promotion”. Also an article on the last ever match at Plumstead, and articles on the first game at Highbury and the series on Tottenham.

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