18 May 1910: Arsenal allowed to continue despite debts

by Tony Attwood

On this day, Woolwich Arsenal, on the edge of going out of business, met the Football League to indicate to the League whether or not they were able to continue playing matches.

Henry Norris had already offered to buy Woolwich Arsenal and pay off the creditors creating a new club, possible to be called Fulham Arsenal, which could play at Craven Cottage.  The League indicated that it had no control over where a club played – it just wanted to be assured that the club would be able to fulfil its obligations.

That confirmation that there was nothing in the League’s rules to show that the League could decide where a club played, was of major importance later, of course, since it was the confirmation Henry Norris needed in order to consider moving Arsenal to north London – something that was vital for its survival, given the decline in the number of men working in the Woolwich Arsenal armaments factories.

But it also indicated that it was for the League to decide which division a club played in, and it was not a given that Fulham Arsenal would take Arsenal’s place in the first division.  The League could decide that the new club was primarily Fulham, and therefore should be in the second division.

In the light of this, Henry Norris then agreed to fund Woolwich Arsenal at Plumstead for one more season.  The League accepted his financial assurances and so the club was allowed to continue playing in the Football League.

It could have been the end of Arsenal at this point, had Norris not stepped in.   But he did and in fact Henry Norris paid for the club to continue at Plumstead for three more years.  What’s more, in that final year he took the huge risk of guaranteeing the funds to develop Highbury from a set of college playing fields into a football ground, making him the largest benefactor in the history of Arsenal.

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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