Monday, 5 December 1921 was a very black day in the history of football in England, for on this day the FA cited opinions (ie fantasies) about football’s unsuitability for females and instructed clubs belonging to the association “to refuse the use of their grounds for such matches”. The League took up the fantasy and also, to their eternal shame, instructed clubs not to let women use their grounds. As a result the ban destroyed women’s football and, pouring even more shame on the League and FA, the ban was not lifted until 1971. Even to this day, the FA has (perhaps typically) never apologised.
The cause of this appalling diktat was not just the rampant sexism which has always been part of the FA, but also a fear by some clubs that women’s football was becoming more popular than the men’s game.
However, what was really needed were innovations to make the men’s game more attractive to spectators – such as covered areas for standing spectators and more goals – and these eventually did come in (the change in the offside law in 1925 did make a significant difference to goalscoring). But the FA has never been forward looking and its automatically reactionary approach took the day. The women’s game was destroyed.
5 December 1960
The London Challenge Cup was a competition that Woolwich Arsenal FC entered from the 1908/9 season (when the competition was first formed) onwards.
In its early years the competition ran through four rounds with the semi-final and final being played on neutral grounds. This changed in 1933 when all rounds were played on the ground of one of the participating teams (the home team being the first drawn from the hat, as in the conventional style).
From the start, the competition attracted both Football League and Southern League teams plus leading amateur teams – Arsenal for example playing Bromley in 1909 and Tufnell Park in 1914.
There was an unofficial change in the early 1930s when the first division clubs moved over to playing their reserve teams. This change was similar to that which Arsène Wenger introduced with the League Cup many years later – the selection of the players was entirely a matter for the clubs and not a formal matter of policy by the London FA who organised the competition.
However change was afoot, and by 1966/7 it was compulsory for all league clubs to enter the Football League Cup (until that date some clubs, including Arsenal, refusing to take part). The London Challenge Cup was thus of even less significance than before, and it finally ceased with the 1973/4 competition.
It was revived in 1990 for non-league teams, before being discontinued once again ten years later.
Arsenal’s first ever match in the competition was on September 28 1908 –a 1-0 away victory over Fulham. The club’s final match was on November 12 1973 in the semi-final, played away to Tottenham in which Arsenal lost 0-3. The team on that final occasion is worth recording as it includes a few famous names:
Barnett, Rixon, Nelson, Powling, Tones, Matthews, Chambers, Hornsby, Ritchie, Price, Brady.
Arsenal reached the final on 16 occasions, winning the competition eleven times including on 5 December 1960, our 12th appearance in the final. We lost to Chelsea on that occasion, but got to the final again the following two seasons, winning each time. We played in the final for the last time in 1969, beating Wimbledon.
NEW: Day by Day – An Arsenal video for (almost) every day of the year in order.
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100 Years in the First Division: the absolute complete story of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919.
Henry Norris at the Arsenal: There is a full index to the series here.
Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever
Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.3 December 1949