Imagine Arsenal as a club owned by its fanbase: we nearly got it.

By Tony Attwood

When Henry Norris agreed to take over Arsenal in 1910, in order to avoid the club going into liquidation and thus ceasing to exist as a League club, he did so on the basis that he would fill the gap in the club’s finances, but then sell the club back to the fans through a series of share issues.

In the early days of the club, prior to its joining the League in 1893 there had been a serious attempt by a small number of wealthy businessmen to take over the club – which at the time was indeed owned by the members.

The members saw off this attack prior to the club becoming a limited company in 1893, and from then on the policy was one of supporters owning shares.

This continued until the club ran into financial trouble in 1910, when Henry Norris took on the debts of the club.  But from then on he offered shares in the club to local fans, and he continued to do this at intervals until 1927 when Sir Henry Norris (as he was by then, the knighthood being in recognition of his services to the nation during the first world war) was deposed by the Hill-Wood family.  That then stopped the sale of shares to fans, and a new era in the club’s history began, with the shares predominantly focussed in the hands of a small number of families who seemed to want no dealings with those who made up the fan base on the terraces.

It was this development away from a mass ownership of shares into a small elite owning the club, that ultimately enabled Stan Kroenke to do the deal to buy the club from that small elite, who all made a significant profit from the sale.   Once Kroneke had gained the vast majority of shares the remaining family shareholders were forced to sell to him and the domination of the club by one man was complete.

26 November 1887: Millwall Rovers 3 Royal Arsenal 0.  This was the third game between the two clubs who became great rivals while Arsenal played in Plumstead and Millwall on the Isle of Dogs.

26 November 1910: Matthew Shortt, played the first of his four games for Arsenal – each of which ended in defeat.   On this date it was Arsenal 1 Newcastle 2, William Hall and Henry Norris were both at the Manor Ground where a prospectus for a new share issue in Woolwich Arsenal FC was given to everyone in the crowd inviting local people to buy back their club.  Mostly they chose not to.  See also here

26 November 1923: Arsenal played the London FA Challenge Cup semi-final against Millwall on Clapton’s ground but the fog descended in the second half and the match was abandoned with Arsenal 2-0 up.

26 November 1924: Herbert Lawson turned professional with Arsenal, ahead of  his debut on 3 February 1926 as Chapman tried to find a replacement for Sid Hoar, whose injuries had stopped his progression.

26 November 1928, Sir Henry Norris dropped his legal action against the Daily Mail in order to continue discussion with the FA in which Sir Henry asked for changes to the report they had issued privately on the finances of Arsenal.

26 November 1932: Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 4-2 at Highbury, while Aston Villa who had just beaten Arsenal 5-3 were beaten 5-2 by lowly Man City. For Arsenal Coleman (2) Hulme and Jack obliged with the goals.  Alex James was injured and Parkin got his first game of the season at number 10. Arsenal went back to top.

26 November 1955: Doug Lishman’s final senior game, a 0-1 home defeat to Burnley.  He joined Nottm Forest and scored a hat-trick in the match that got Nottingham Forest promoted in 1956/7, but retired in the summer of 1957 to join his father-in law in a furniture retail business in Stoke on Trent.

26 November 1958: Danny Clapton’s only appearance for England

26 November 1969:  Arsenal 3 Sporting Lisbon 0 in the Fairs Cup saw George Graham get two, Radford the third, and an improved crowd of 35,253 came to join in the fun.

26 November 1977:  Arsenal 1 Derby County 3 rang the alarm bells.  What was so worrying was not that Arsenal lost, but could have been 3-1 up by half time but instead it was 1-1 as Stapleton back headed to his keeper, only to find he wasn’t there.  It then got worse and Arsenal looked a spent force.

26 November 1983: Final game for Lee Chapman after just 28 games; a 0-3 away defeat to Leicester.  Fortunately Tony Woodcock found his goalscoring form and got 21 goals in 37 games to help haul Arsenal up to 6th.  It was also the last game for Alan Sunderland

26 November 1994: Final game for Jimmy Carter.  He managed only 25 games and two goals with Arsenal and did not play in any of the Cup finals.   After the fall of Graham, Rioch loaned him to Oxford, before going to Portsmouth and then back to Millwall in 1998 where an injury curtailed his career.

26 November 1995: A 0-0 draw with Blackburn: the start of a period of one win in eight, during which Arsenal only scored eight goals and managed to lost 1-3 at home to Wimbledon.

26 November 2005: Henry scored his 100th goal at Highbury against Blackburn.  His goal came on half time with Fabregas and van Persie also scoring in a 3-0 win.  It was Arsenal’s third successive win and made it five unbeaten, but sadly the run was not to continue.

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