November / December 1915: the match fixing scandal comes to the fore: Norris is armed

By Tony Attwood

By November 1915 more and more of everyday life in the UK had been rearranged to cope with the war.  It was clear to everyone that conscription was going to happen, and no one spoke about the war being concluded in a short space of time.

During November the 177th and 182nd artillery brigades that had been created and recruited by Henry Norris began training in earnest, but were not yet ready to take up their duties in Europe.

Henry Norris himself, with his recently acquired officer’s rank had marked himself out as an administrator and manager who would get things done, and if need be would get them done himself rather than waste time consulting with other people.  It was the sort of leadership that all organisations and countries need in time of emergency, and he was undoubtedly good at it.  And that did not mean he would be able to slip back into regional civilian life and a more consultative way of proceeding at the end of the war.

Football continued as before, with matches every Saturday afternoon in the London League, the first match in November being a home game against Brentford on the 6th of the month.  Arsenal won 3-1 with two from Groves and one from Chipperfield (the Luton Clarence player mentioned last month).

The following Tuesday Henry Norris was re-elected by the councillors to continue to serve as Mayor of Fulham.  In his acceptance speech he perhaps forgot the origins of the club of which he was now chairman in that he criticised the men who were continuing to work in the munitions factories at home rather than fight overseas. Not one of his better speeches.

Indeed I am not sure where he was going with this one.  Munitions work was essential, and extremely dangerous, and not something that could be handed on to the untrained, to women (to give such work to women would have meant giving up on the whole anti-suffragette campaign of the government when the war ended) or to those men unfit or too old for service in the field of war.  So who exactly did he think would take the daily risk of having their hands blown off?

On 13 November Arsenal played Tottenham away, and despite having gone 2-0 down at half time Arsenal rallied and the match ended 3-3.  The crowd however was a modest 7000.  What was notable however was that King got another hattrick.

The following week it was Crystal Palace at home, with just 5000 in Highbury.  The last match of the month saw just 2,500 comes to QPR for Arsenal’s third draw of the month – 1-1 watched by 2,500 on 27 November.

On the same day, with Parliament now sitting on Saturdays when needed, legislation was introduced to control housing rents and maintain them at their pre-war level.  This followed a series of rent strikes in Glasgow – events which had often led to civil disorder and wholesale eviction by landlords in recent years.   Controlling rents in peacetime was certainly not the stuff that Liberal and Conservative governments were made of, but war time required a different approach it was felt.

At the start of December, with the number of volunteers still low, and no word from on high about conscription, Henry Norris took it upon himself to introduce a scheme under which employers were urged to give jobs to wounded soldiers capable of some work but no longer fit enough to fight. 

Not surprisingly the Trades Unions did not like the idea and protested that they had not been consulted.  I am not sure what happened to the scheme – it was after all voluntary – but he may have decided to leave it for a moment (or been told from on high that conscription was on its way and that this would change everything, so there was no benefit in having a battle with the unions at this point).   But whatever the reason he quickly changed tack and began suggesting that people should stop spending money on Christmas presents and luxury goods but instead donate their money to the government for the pursuance of the war.

On 3 December the West London and Fulham Times, a paper for which Norris had regularly written on football matters, published its final edition.  The size of the paper was now so small, the content so controlled and advertising non-existent, the whole project was not only unprofitable but also verging on the laughable.

Meanwhile the football matches continued to roll around, but there is once again no indication that Norris attended any of the games of either Fulham or Arsenal – not even on 4 December when the two clubs played each other at Highbury.  After their run of draws, Arsenal finally got back to winning ways, the result being 2-1 in front of a crowd of just 3000.

The following Saturday there was another local derby – which was not surprising since this was the London League – and again Arsenal ran out winners, 2-0 against Clapton Orient once more with a crowd of just 3000.

On Wednesday 8 December 1915 Henry Norris was able to tell the other councillors, at the regular Fulham Council meeting, that 6210 men from the borough had volunteered under the Group and Canvas recruitment schemes.  A help, but not enough to stave off conscription.

However there was quite a rush of volunteers in the following four days until the scheme closed and by 11 September when the scheme did close it was reported that there were still around 4000 men who had pledged under the scheme to sign up, but who had left it to the last minute to do so.   Henry Norris and his team worked until the early hours of Sunday morning to complete the registration which meant that Norris most certainly did miss the match on the previous day against Clapton Orient, the result being a rare away win to Arsenal by 2-0. But only 3000 attended.

However despite all the activity in signing men up under the new volunteer scheme these men were not immediately assigned to a unit.  They were all supposed to have a Group and Canvas armband to show they had enlisted, but even on this minor matter most of the London boroughs failed in their duty, claiming they did not have enough armbands to go round.  Fulham, however, most certainly did.  Once again we see Norris the administrator to the fore.  He simply knew how to get such things done.

Meanwhile there was another major event afoot which Henry Norris would not have been involved in, but he would have read the subsequent reports with much interest.  For the FA had finally got around to discussing the issue of the match fixing allegations from the previous spring, involving Liverpool and Manchester United.  If anything the League were probably very happy that the newspapers were now restricted to just four pages of heavily censored patriotic war news, for there was precious little coverage of the FA Commission that met to discuss the matter.

I am not at all sure if Norris dropped the commission a line to remind them of his complaints of a similar nature against Liverpool in the spring of 1913; probably not.  He was a man who knew how to keep his powder dry, and he knew that whatever the commission found at this time, he would have plenty of time after the war to make things uncomfortable for the League if they chose not to see things his way.

The match in question on this occasion was the Good Friday game between Liverpool, sitting mid-table, and Manchester United threatened with relegation.  You can read more and see the implications for the league table in our article on April 1915.

The game ended with an unexpected 2-0 win to Manchester United and reports at the time spoke of a Liverpool team that was not really trying.  It was also reported that when Liverpool got a penalty the penalty taker rolled the ball wide, and when Fred Pagnam of Liverpool headed the ball against the Man U cross bar late in the second half, several members of his team took issue with him.  The referee John Sharpe, interviewed at the subsequent hearing testified that the game was “the most extraordinary match I have ever officiated in,”

A week after the Good Friday match, the Sporting Chronicle reported: “… unsavoury comments are made, and the repetition of these observations, if not checked, is not likely to do the game any good, when football needs every friend it can find.”

It was then suggested that a lot of bets had been placed at 7 to 1 on a 2-0 win by Manchester United, and the word spread that three players from Manchester United: Sandy Turnbull, Arthur Whalley and Enoch West, plus four players from Liverpool (Jackie Sheldon, Tom Miller, Bob Pursell and Thomas Fairfoul) were involved.  It was also said that Jackie Sheldon who had previously played for Man U used his contacts with the opposition to fix up the arrangement.

Further it was subsequently stated that two players, Fred Pagnam of Liverpool and George Anderson of Manchester United, had refused to take part.  Fred Pagnam indeed testified against his teammates at the hearing.  Billy Meredith of United said that he knew nothing of the arrangement but became suspicious when during the game he hardly got a touch of the ball.

The testimony was taken during the run up to Christmas (I regret I don’t have the dates) and the verdict was delivered on 27 December 1915. The FA’s  conclusion was that there had indeed been a conspiracy by the players, but not by the club or its officials.  As a result it was felt unreasonable to fine or deduct points from either club!  There was no suggestion made that the officials and directors of the club ought to have been aware what was going on or moved quickly to deal with their own players, although clearly if they didn’t know and didn’t suspect, there was a clear dereliction of duty among the directors.

The players involved were banned for life from playing League football in England, but could play in Scotland, and since four of the players were Scottish, and with the Scottish League 1st Division still running that gave them an opening to continue their career.   Enoch West was the one player who completely protested his innocence, and subsequently sued the FA for libel.

Sandy Turnbull died in the service of his country in the war, and all the other players, except West, had their bans lifted by the FA in 1919 in recognition of their service to the country while Turnbull received a posthumous reinstatement.  West’s suspension was finally lifted in 1945, by which time of course he was completely beyond the age of playing professional football.

Some subsequent reports suggest that this victory saved Manchester United from relegation – this is untrue as our report on the events in April 1915 show with regards to the league table at the time.   The victory certainly helped but just winning that game did not make them safe.

This picture below from four-four-two show the team at the time with Whalley, Turnball and West shown in red.

United's 1909 team, featuring (highlighted in red) Whalley, Turnball and West.

However two other issues were associated with this event, and all three grouped together became highly significant in the application Henry Norris made in 1919 for Arsenal to take a place in the First Division.

First there was the 1913 allegation by Norris in his local Fulham paper to the effect that another Liverpool match (Liverpool 1 Chelsea 2) was fixed.  (The full context of that tale is here).   The League and FA strongly censured Norris for this and warned him as to his future conduct.   The 1915 match now gave Norris a major weapon in his arsenal (if I may make the pun) in that he had taken the warning, and sat back and said nothing more.   But, he could now argue, it was more than likely that the Liverpool game he had seen on Easter Monday 1913 was fixed, given that it was once again Liverpool whose players were being examined on match fixing charges.  If the League and FA had taken his allegations of 1913 seriously, they could at the very least have examined Liverpool’s conduct at the time, and warned players that they were watching, and so put a stop to  subsequent match fixing events before things got out of hand.

And there was more because the Manchester United v Burnley match on 11 October 1913 there were also allegations of a betting scam, and for this, one of the Man U players who was cleared in 1915 was finally jailed in 1918 for being part of a large scale match fixing for betting purposes syndicate.

Quite clearly the authorities, in ignoring Norris’ complaints about the match he witnessed in 1913, and in initially ignoring the allegations concerning the Burnley match the FA were supremely negligent, and they were only forced to act because of the refusal by betting companies to pay up in 1915.

Norris’ position in all this was simple.  Arsenal themselves had not suffered due to the match fixing – they were ultimately doomed to relegation in 1913 anyway, but he had warned the FA and the League about the existence of match fixing, and instead of their being an enquiry, he was told to shut up.

Of course he would do nothing in wartime, at which time he was a patriot doing his duty.  But by the end of the war he was far more than that.  He was a Lieutenant Colonel and a knight of the realm and he had the history of match fixing across three separate matches and the inability of the League to deal with it at his disposal.

Back in December 1915, football on the pitch rumbled on and on 18 December Arsenal were at home to Watford recording a 3-1 win in front of 5000.

Five days later an important Act came into effect (on Thursday 23 December): The Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (War Restrictions) Act 1915 mentioned above finally came into effect.  I am not sure how much it would have affected the rents the Norris and Hall charged for their properties. but apart from anything else it introduced rent controls into English law for the first time.

By the time Christmas came along the news from the multiplicity of fronts that the country was fighting on was grave enough to mean very few men in Henry Norris’ 177th and 182nd artillery brigades were given leave; but it appears that they did get a Christmas dinner in their barracks paid for by public donations at fund raising events.

However despite such determination to get the men ready for the battlefield the traditional Christmas matches took place, and most curious they were from an Arsenal point of view.  On 25 December Arsenal lost 8-2 to Southern League West Ham, while two days later Arsenal beat the same team 3-2.  There were 5,500 at Upton Park for the first game, and 8869 at Highbury for the second, the last match of 1915.

Quite what made such a difference between the two games I don’t know but Ducat and Shaw were both missing for the Christmas Day game and the amateur Chipperfield was playing in place of Groves who moved into midfield.  It doesn’t seem a big enough set of changes to explain the different score lines, so one has to assume that Arsenal suffered an injury or two in the first game.

Here are the results for the last two months of 1915

Date Opposition Venue Result Score Crowd
6 Nov 1915 Brentford H W 3-1 7,500
13 Nov 1915 Tottenham H A D 3-3 7,000
20 Nov 1915 Crystal Palace H D 2-2 5,000
27 Nov 1915 QPR A D 1-1 2,500
4 Dec 1915 Fulham H W 2-1 3,000
11 Dec 1915 Clapton Orient H W 2-0 3,000
18 Dec Watford H W 3-1 5,000
25 Dec 1915 West Ham A L 2-8 5,500
27 Dec 1915 West Ham H W 3-2 8,869

We might also note that King played in all five of these games, scoring in each of them, and indeed getting six goals in total through the month of December.

The Henry Norris FilesSection 1 – 1910.

Section 2 – 1911

Section 3 – 1912

Section 4 – 1913

Section 5 – 1914

Section 6 – 1915



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