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9 May 1891: Arsenal vote to become the first professional team in the south

Without the events of this day, there may well never have been an Arsenal football club.

For on this day Royal Arsenal FC voted at its AGM to turn itself into a professional side, making the club the first professional team in the south of England in a move proposed by Jack Humble. The club immediately tendered its resignation from both the Kent and London FA but this was turned down in both cases (although later reports suggested otherwise).

So Arsenal were very honourable in tendering their resignation – but the local clubs would have none of it for the simple reason that they knew that playing Arsenal home and away would bring them in the largest paydays of the season.  Arsenal stayed with their local FAs.

Unfortunately, the 1930 version of Arsenal’s handbook got the story totally wrong, and said that the move to professionalism “was most displeasing to their neighbours in the South, and at the outset Woolwich Arsenal – as the club was now styled suffered a serious boycott.”

Now this is untrue on two counts.  First, the club did not change from Royal Arsenal to Woolwich Arsenal until 1893, and second there was no boycott.   Royal Arsenal tendered its resignation from the London FA and the Kent FA after the Extraordinary General Meeting on 9 May but the clubs within the two FAs both rejected the idea.

We should also note that this vote for professionalism came two years before Arsenal joined the Football League, and that it was this move to professionalism that caused the split within the club which resulted in an attempted coup in 1893 and the setting up of Royal Ordnance Factories FC who played in a stadium almost opposite Arsenal’s league ground, as an amateur team in the Southern League.

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.

100 Years: 100 Years in the First Division

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