By Tony Attwood
The revolutionary nature of Arsenal FC throughout its history is often forgotten, it seems to me. And today’s first anniversary – the first report of Arsenal becoming a club that paid its players – is an example of that.
Clubs in the north of England had been paying their players for several years by the time Arsenal came on the scene, but none in the south had done this on anything other than an ad hoc basis. But then Arsenal was already different – for instead of being set up and run either by the management of a company, or by a church or other religious group, Arsenal was always self-contained, run by a committee elected from its members. And anyone could be a member, simply by paying the club fee.
As a result there was no difference between the Arsenal management and the Arsenal players – they were all as one, and thus the notion of paying the players was logical and inevitable.
The subsequent reports that Arsenal were then ejected from the local Football Associations of London and Kent, which have appeared in numerous histories of the club, are completely false. Arsenal offered to resign their membership, since both FAs were made up exclusively of clubs that did not pay their players, but both FAs turned down Arsenal’s offer, and voted for Arsenal to remain in membership.
Here are the anniversaries for today.
23 May 1891: The first press report emerged of the AGM of Royal Arsenal wherein professionalism was proposed. This was to make Arsenal the first fully professional team in the south (although Luton paid a few of their team earlier in the year).
23 May 1918: Dennis Compton born. Denis was a cricketer who played football, in contrast to his brother who was a footballer who played cricket. Both played for Arsenal.
23 May 1923: SK Lyn Oslo 0 Arsenal 0. Joe Shaw, one of the most important men in Arsenal’s history, who later won the league as Arsenal manager, made his final appearance as player, moving on to become manager of Arsenal Youth Team and then Arsenal Reserves. He played 309 league and 17 cup games.
23 May 1948 Archie Macaulay won the last of seven caps for Scotland. He continued to play for Arsenal until 1950 when he moved on to Fulham.
23 May 1973: Having finished second in the league Arsenal played two overseas friendlies, of which this was the first. Toronto Select 0 Arsenal 1 (George scored).
23 May 1998: Arsenal recording of “Hot Stuff” entered the top 10.
23 May 2011: Ex Arsenal man John Jenson was given a new contract as assistant manager at Blackburn, a club that appeared to be in permanent turmoil after being taken over by a family that seemed to have little knowledge of football. He was sacked after four months.