By Tony Attwood
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On this day in 1914 The Times, known as the ultimate newspaper of record for the country, reported that Woolwich Arsenal football club had changed its name.
Unfortunately, for the national newspaper of record that was not the case for this latest name change in the series did not happen until the club became “The Arsenal Football And Athletic Company Limited” sometime between 20 and 23 April.
The Board publicly announced the new name on 23 April, but did not formally approve the change until 10 May.
Arsenal had already been through several name changes, playing their first ever match as Dial Square FC (the name taken because only men from the Dial Square factory at the Royal Arsenal were in the side).
After that first game the newly formed club was opened to men from across the whole of the Royal Arsenal factories, and so became Royal Arsenal.
The next change of name which occurred in 1893 came about because the club had successfully applied to join the Football League, as its first club in London.
League rules stated that all clubs had to be limited companies. However Companies House regulations stated that no limited company could have a name that associated itself with the royal family.
So Arsenal became Woolwich Arsenal, named after the factory complex (even though their ground was in Plumstead. In fact, they never played in Woowlich).
When Arsenal moved from Plumstead to Highbury, Sir Henry Norris was keen to show that this was still the same club as before, and so for the first season the club proudly kept the name Woolwich Arsenal FC, but by the end of this season the board had clearly decided to amend the name. “The Arsenal” it was.
The next change came with the dropping of the definitive article as “The” disappeared and we were Arsenal Football Club Ltd. That was in November 1919.
The story has circulated that this change was proposed by Herbert Chapman when he joined the club in 1925 but this is completely false, as five seconds of research reveals.
There was a plan in the 1930s to become London FC, but the plan was dropped on the grounds it was too arrogant. No one claimed the name London in football, until West Ham gave that name to their borrowed stadium possibly in honour of the fact that London taxpayers paid for it.
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.
The 1919 Affair