Arsenal’s ground closed because of “incident”

One of the great things about studying football history is that one keeps coming across little known oddities which give just a tiny insight into the world of Arsenal.  The problem is that quite often they just don’t give enough information, and I am left desperately searching for a proper explanation.


Let me give one example.


On 26 January 1895 there was an “incident” in the Division II match between Woolwich Arsenal and Burton Wanderers.   The few reference books that mention this “incident” (which I suspect have each copied the information from each other) refer to it as something that involved the referee.


As a result the Woolwich Arsenal ground was closed for four weeks.  Not surprisingly, given that this was only the second season that Arsenal were in the league, it was the first time it had happened, although disturbances were not that uncommon – particularly in Scotland.  Given that at the time the Woolwich team was made up largely of Scottish players (as was the munitions factory made up of Scottish workers), it seems the fans may have brought their habits with them.


But that is supposition.  The fact is apart from the fact that the ground was closed for a month, and that the incident involved the ref, I know nothing.  (If you have a source, do let me know!)


Did the players attack the ref?  Did the fans attack the ref?  Did the Arsenal manager attack the ref?   Somewhere there must be a record of this event, but I can’t find it.


We do know that the crowd was 7,000 and that the match was a draw – and that as a consequence of the ban the records show Arsenal playing their next two home games at New Brompton and Leyton.  But that’s about it.


I don’t condone violence of course, but there is something inside me that is somehow rather pleased that the problems within football grounds that were around earlier in my football watching career were not just my generation having a punch up.  I don’t want to be seen to encouraging any kind of violence, but it does give me a deeper understanding of the whole history of football in the UK to know that in our second year in the League we managed to get the ground closed.


And of course we were not alone.  Ground closures were common as the old timers who ran the Football League and the toffs who ran the FA tried to keep things under control.


The book, “Making the Arsenal” which features the year 1910 will be available on October 30th price £12.99 plus delivery.  Details will appear on this site shortly.  Meanwhile there are more details about Arsenal today on



2 Replies to “Arsenal’s ground closed because of “incident””

  1. Tony, I’ve been trawling through your achive and came across this article which was a bit sparse on information.

    Once again, I have a match report for this game.

    The report starts of by saying: “The game was without doubt the roughest ever seen at the Manor Ground, the visitors being the greater offenders.”

    The ground was hard due to the cold weather and there were a number of nasty falls but no one was seriously hurt.

    The game was played at a fast pace and Arsenal opened the scoring. Arsenal then had a goal disallowed as they had appealed for a free-kick before the ball entered the net. The free-kick came to nothing.

    After this there was some rough play until half-time (1-0 to Arsenal).

    The second half started with chances from both sides but no goals were scored. After this Burton started playing rough again and the game became a non-event.

    The trouble began at the end of the game when Burton were awarded a penalty. Arsenal contested this vigourously and Burton scored from the penalty.

    The crowd took exception to some of the referee’s decisions especially the penalty and when he appeared to send off one of the Burton players and then called him back on to the pitch. The referee was Mr Brodie who I cannot say whether or not was Graham Poll’s great grandfather.

    Anyway, this would probably have been the end of it all had one of the Burton players not “interfered” with Arsenal’s Patrick O’Brien as they left the pitch.

    The crowd then flocked around the front of the dressing rooms trying to get to the visitors’ team. The Burton players were ushered safely into the pavilion by the Arsenal directors.

    The referee was still on the pitch (he MUST have been related to Graham Poll) and was knocked out by blow from a spectator. Joe Powell threw the offender to the ground and the rest of the crowd tried to hold him but others in the crowd prevented this.

    The ground was then cleared by the police.

    The referee was treated by the local doctor and then moved to the doctor’s house close to the ground.

    A crowd of about 2000 waited outside the ground for the Burton team but they were smuggled out of the ground via a back door and they got to Plumstead station safely.

    The referee stayed with the doctor until Monday when he caught a train back to his home in Wolverhampton.

    Arsenal played two league games and two friendlies during the 6 week period: Burton Swifts (at New Brompton, Gillingham), Leicester Fosse (at Leyton), Liverpool (at Hornsey) and Gainsborough Trinity (at Gravesend). The respective crowds were: 5000, 4000, 1000 & 2000.

    There was trouble at another game a few years later.

    On 24 April 1900 we played Tottenham at home in the Southern District Combination (a first team competition played to boost income). The game was abandoned after 75 minutes due to comments being shouted at the referee from the crowd. Unfortunately I haven’t got a report from this game. No action was taken against either club.

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