23 May 1891: Arsenal kicked out of football… or not?

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By Tony Attwood

On this day the Woolwich Gazette ran a report on the AGM of Royal Arsenal FC which occurred a couple of days earlier and passed the motion to the effect that, “In accordance with the resolution adopting professionalism, the Club had resigned from the Kent and London Associations, but they had not yet received letters accepting their resignations.”

This reflected the fact that at an EGM the members of the club had voted in favour of professionalism.  However this gave the club a problem since the competitions run by the London FA and Kent FA (of which Arsenal were, until that moment, members) were for amateur clubs only – so the club took the honourable course and resigned its membership.

But it wasn’t just honour that caused this move – Royal Arsenal had been very annoyed by the fact that both FAs had scheduled cup matches for Arsenal on the same day during the 1890/1 season, and both had refused to change the date when Arsenal politely asked.

Yet the story later circulated that Arsenal had in fact been kicked out of the FAs (Wikipedia is one such source) and as a result found it hard to find any teams to play against, while being forced to make long and arduous journeys to the north of the country to find such matches as they could get.

In fact both FAs turned down Arsenal’s resignation, and this for one simple reason.  For the rest of the clubs in the south east, the matches against Royal Arsenal were their money-spinners – Arsenal always attracted the biggest crowds, and the clubs were not likely to give up on that.

Unfortunately, subsequent publications, including the Arsenal handbook which for many years published a brief Arsenal history, got the story wrong and suggested Arsenal had been kicked out of both FAs and had subsequently struggled.

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