5 October: Arsenal summoned to FA headquarters


By Tony Attwood

On 23 September and again on 30 September Arsenal played Tottenham in the league, first at WHL where Arsenal won 2-1 and then at Highbury where Tottenham won 0-2.

On 5 October 1922: Arsenal were summoned to FA headquarters to explain the behaviour of their players.  Sir Henry Norris, William Hall, Charles Crisp, John Humble, Leslie Knighton, and some Arsenal players deemed to be involved in inappropriate behaviour, plus the directors, managers and players of Tottenham, were all called upon to attend the FA headquarters, to give evidence to an FA Commission of Inquiry into the game played at White Hart Lane on 23 September.

This game had become notorious both for the roughness of the play and as a result of press coverage of the match which suggested that the crowd at White Hart Lane unduly influenced a referee’s decision-making.

Tottenham’s forward Walden went off injured after 10 minutes leaving Tottenham a man short for the rest of the game (no subs in those days).    With Arsenal having come to play a defensive game (a fairly reasonable decision based on the position of the two clubs at the time) the Reds (as they were known in those days) continued to hold firm in defence and play long balls up the pitch hoping to catch Tottenham on the break and exploit their one-man advantage. 

This approach was very much in keeping with Leslie Knighton, the Arsenal manager’s, approach.   And indeed it worked, as having held the game at 0-0 at half time, Arsenal then went 2-0 up in the second half as Tottenham noticeably tired.

But with ten minutes to go Tottenham got the ball in the Arsenal net.   The referee disallowed the goal for offside but was then surrounded by the Tottenham team and was “persuaded” to change his mind.  Arsenal obviously protested at this change in the decision, and as a brawl broke out on the pitch Alec Graham punched Tottenham’s Smith.  What the media described as “A certain amount of uproar” followed but ultimately the game was completed with no more goals.  Arsenal had an away victory at Tottenham and in the space of two games had risen four places up the league away from an unwelcome proximity to the relegation zone.

Of course, the press felt this was the story of the week and spent much time mulling over the events as the FA began its enquiry.

The subsequent report censured the Arsenal players and suspended one Tottenham player for a month.  It also, rather amusingly reminded crowds attending matches that they had to accept referees’ decisions, even when the decision was wrong.  Tottenham were particularly warned about the behaviour of their crowd at WHL, which the report stated had influenced the referee’s decision-making.  The referee seems to have got off scot-free though and as far as I can discover, he was not called to give evidence.

But what is also interesting is that the League had continued with the policy it had introduced for the first time in 1919/20 of playing the home and away fixtures between clubs in consecutive matches for most of the season knowing that this could inflame the passions of the crowd. 


Leave a Reply

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