25 August: Arsenal chairman warns players to lay off the whisky before a game.


25 August 1899: Arsenal chairman warns the club players to lay off the whisky before a game.

The chairman in question was George Leavey who said, “No man with a skinful of whisky can play football.”

For much of its existence Arsenal has been dependent on benefactors – men who put their own money into the club in order that it may survive.

George Leavey ran a chain of Gentleman’s Outfitters, and opened a shop in Woolwich in 1896. For a number of years he put money into the club to keep it afloat, and was first elected a director in 1898, becoming Chairman in 1899 and club president in 1900, a post in which he remained until 1910. He was then re-installed as Chairman again when Henry Norris took over, retiring at the end of April 1912.

At the June 1899 AGM Leavey concluded the meeting with a request to the public present not to offer drink to the players. He went further at a pre-season dinner for the players in August 1899 when he stated: “Woolwich is a place fraught with much mischief to young men. Half past twelve closing may be good in its way, but it is unquestionably bad for football. Don’t let people stand you drinks. They will do you and the club the greatest evil that can be done. No man with a skinful of whisky can play football”.

As chairman at the half-yearly general meeting in January 1900 he made an impassioned speech concerning the very existence of Arsenal as a going concern, but he was determined to keep them afloat during the Boer War, and he moved the resolution: “That this meeting hears with regret of the difficulties of the Arsenal Football Club owing very largely to the continuous pressure of work in the Royal Arsenal, and hereby pledges itself to use every endeavour to assist the club through its present financial difficulties and heartily wishes the old club success and greater prosperity in the near future”.

His and Lawrance’s finances and the re-introduction of Humble’s administrative nous ensured the worst deficit in the club’s history was overcome in 1900. The improvement was such that Leavy was quoted as saying the finances were back to being “eminently satisfactory” by the 1903 AGM.

In 1909 the Kentish Independent stated that Leavey had paid the players’ wages several times during that close season, and it may have been this that was the final proverbial straw which led to voluntary liquidation.  Following the low share take up in 1910, Leavey turned to Norris, and the Kentish Independent noted: “Arsenal club saved. Fulham Gentlemen on the board. The Arsenal Football Club crisis has taken another and a sensational turn”.

Leavey reported the rescue arrangements at the Football League sub‑committee meeting on 18th May 1910 and thus handed over the financial reins to Norris and as part of the takeover Norris agreed to pay the liabilities of the company.  A large part of those were the £3,600 owed to George Hiram Leavey.

It is frightening to consider how much he had given the club in addition to that which was formally recorded as in 1908 it was stated by Humble that Leavey had lent the club in the region of £15,000 for transfers over the previous years, although I’ve not found any formal record of this, so perhaps he had subsequently had some of it returned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *