In an event of supreme importance in relation to what happened in the future, in September 1919, second division Leeds City FC were summoned to a meeting with the Football League and ordered to hand over their accounts. Leeds refused to do so on the grounds that the Commission had no legal right to demand them. The League then removed Leeds City from its membership of the league, and banned five officials forany involvement in football for life.
Among those five was their manager, Herbert Chapman.
Herbert Chapman had managed Leeds prior to the war but like so many others had taken up war work in industry during the conflict. He had returned to Leeds City and resumed his work after the war, but before the League commenced in August 1919 he resigned, moved to Selby and gave up football to become a superintendent at an oil and coke works.
We have no explanation from him as to why he did this – and it is notable that this action occurred despite the fact that he had had some success with Leeds, taking them towards promotion in his first two seasons, although slipping back in the highly disrupted 1914/15 season, which was of course played during wartime.
After the war, and before the 1919/20 began, Leeds were reported by some former players of paying “guest” players who had appeared for them in war time friendlies – something that was clearly not allowed under the wartime rules.
However the evidence that Leeds had been breaking the rules was largely hearsay, coming particularly from Charlie Copeland who had been with Leeds City since 1912 but had fallen out with the club over the issue of a pay rise.
After Leeds refused to hand over their accounts (on the grounds that there was nothing in the Football League regulations to say that they were obliged to open up their accounts for scrutiny) the Football League removed Leeds City from its membership, and banned five officials for life, including Herbert Chapman. In typical football league style, there was no right to appeal.
The fixtures of Leeds for the season were then taken over by Port Vale, who bizarrely were able to count the eight games Leeds City had played (four wins two draws and two defeats) as their own! Leeds City was wound up, the players sold, and then a new club with the same directors owning the same ground and called Leeds United, was set up. The League immediately admitted them for the 1920/21 season. Grimsby were ejected from the league to make room.
Meanwhile Herbert Chapman in late December 1920, was laid off from his job at the coke works but was then very quickly approached by Huddersfield Town to be assistant manager to Ambrose Langley, who had played with Herbert Chapman’s brother Harry at The Wednesday (where Harry had made over 200 appearances).
Working with the support of Huddersfield, Herbert Chapman then appealed against his life ban, won the case and so after just over a month’s unemployment he became an employee of Huddersfield Town on 1 February 1921, soon replacing the incumbent manager.
Had he lost that legal case, who knows what Arsenal’s future might have held.