12 April 1913 – Woolwich Arsenal relegated

by Andy Kelly

One of the many myths of Arsenal’s history is that the club has never been relegated. Unfortunately, this is not so. Even worse is that when they were relegated it was with one of the worst records ever.

The fateful day when Arsenal were relegated was 12 April 1913. Prior to this date they had been hanging on by the skin of their teeth, mainly because Chelsea were having a pretty poor season as well. That morning the bottom of the First Division table looked like this:

    Pld W D L F A Pts GA
Tottenham Hotspur 35 12 5 18 43 67 29 0.64
18 Chelsea 35 8 6 21 42 71 22 0.59
19 Notts County 35 6 8 21 24 50 20 0.48
20 Arsenal 35 3 10 22 23 70 16 0.33

Back then only the bottom two teams were relegated at the end of the season. Teams level on points were then graded on goal average (“goals for” divided by “goals against”). Mathematically Arsenal could still stay up but they would have to hope that Chelsea would lose all of their games, as well as having to make up a 20 goal difference.

Derby County journeyed down to Plumstead hoping to join the long list of teams that had taken points from Woolwich Arsenal that season. The locals were obviously expecting the worst as a meagre 5,591 of them paid to watch the game.

Arsenal’s team was:


Shaw Fidler

Grant Randall McKinnon

Lewis Flanagan McLaughlan Devine Burrell

Derby led 1-0 at half-time and nailed Arsenal’s coffin well and truly shut a minute into the second-half when they scored a second goal. Charlie Lewis scored a consolation goal after 67 minutes but that was it. The local paper reports of the game agreed that the game had gone the same way as so many Arsenal games at the start of the season – Arsenal having the best chances but not being able to convert them into goals. The final score was 2-1 to Derby.

The First Division table that evening looked this:

    Pld W D L F A Pts GA
Tottenham Hotspur 36 12 5 19 43 68 29 0.63
18 Chelsea 36 9 6 21 43 71 24 0.61
19 Notts County 36 6 9 21 24 50 21 0.48
20 Arsenal 36 3 10 23 24 72 16 0.33

And so it passed that Woolwich Arsenal were relegated. If there was a positive to be gained from the defeat against Derby it was that we weren’t sent down due to the result of the following game – a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.


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30 Replies to “12 April 1913 – Woolwich Arsenal relegated”

  1. Andy,

    Apparently the crowd “rocked with mirth” at the ineptitude of the forwards in this game against Derby, such was their humourous reaction to the team’s poor display.

  2. In 1913 Woolwich Arsenal came bottom of the First Division (there was no premier league in those days) and went into the second division where they played for two seasons.

  3. But we have been made to understand that Arsenal has never been relegated. And it brings so many argument among fans and supporters.

  4. I think there are a couple of issues that lead to the confusion.

    First the club name: it was Woolwich Arsenal FC while playing in Plumstead at the Manor Ground who were relegated. So technically Arsenal FC have never been relegated. And one can say Arsenal has never been relegated since going to Highbury in 1913.

    That second point is worthy of note because the continuity of appearance in the first division since 1919 is one that is far ahead of every other club, and means we should have one hell of a celebration in 2019 – assuming we don’t get relegated.

    And if you hear a story that says Arsenal bribed their way into the first division in 1919 you might like to read this

    10 March 1919, Arsenal elected. Find the bribery and get the reward


  5. @ Tony Attwood i want to ask a question, back then in 12 April 1913 is Premier league referred to as first division? if yes, you are right that Arsenal had been relegated is irrespective of name they may be calling them then and now, but if the answer is no then you are wrong with your post because the basis of the argument is that Arsenal have not been relegated from from Premier league

  6. Akobada, in 1913 Woolwich Arsenal were relegated from the 1st division to the 2nd division. So to be technical, it wasn’t Arsenal, it was Woolwich Arsenal, and it certainly wasn’t the Premier League. But just as Woolwich Arsenal morphed into The Arsenal and then into Arsenal, so the First Division morphed into the Premier League.

    Different name, same club; different name, same league.

  7. If that is how you want to interpret it then neither have Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton, Man Utd, Man City etc. never been relegated from the Premier League….Not so much of a boast, but at least an honest statement…

  8. Tony Attwood, You claim it’s not Woolwich Arsenal because they changed their name, then you say about the Bribery blog from 1919 (I’m guessing 6 years after they changed their name) So why is the 1919 blog Woolwich arsenal.co.uk? oops.

  9. The blog is called “The History of Arsenal” the address is blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk, and the date the club first called itself “Arsenal” was 6 December 1919. I hope that clarifies things for you.

  10. Well, bottomline is that, they were relegated in 1913 and stayed down for 2 seasons before coming back up! So, you guys should stop flying that “never been relegated” kite again because it’s not gonna fly with people like me!

  11. Bunmi you confuse me totally. The article is titled 12 April 1913 Woolwich Arsenal relegated, which seems clear to me that Woolwich Arsenal was relegated. And you say “So you guys should stop flying that “never been relegated” kite. There is a certain lack of connection between the two.

  12. The Article clearly states that “Woolwich Arsenal” has been relegated not “Arsenal” so get your facts straight… Arsenal still remains invincible and will always remain invincible you turd

  13. Correct me if I am wrong but because of the small matter of the first world, the 1914 season was never played. After the war finished,the top flight was reorganised & Arsenal were included in the new look top division. Therefore technically it doesn’t count & Arsenal were only relegated on paper, in reality it never happened.

  14. That is wrong Matcus. Arsenal were relegated in 1912/13 to the second division, and played there for two seasons. The 1914/15 season did take place, having started before the war began – it continued largely because there was a strong feeling that “it would all be over by Christmas”.

  15. Phenomenal history lesson. Thanks for sharing. This year should be a celebration of 100 years of uninterrupted top flight football, but the way the season is going not many people seem to have noticed.

  16. We have big problem. Arteta first two letters is like Arsenal so that good but that leave “teta” which is tit in spanish, so if Arteta is a tit that is not good because he will boob.

  17. I knew Arsenal had finished bottom just before WWI (I have a book from the 70s with every teams’ point scores back to “Whenever”), but I assumed they had never played in the second tier, since they were back in Div 1 right after the War. Thanks for clarifying!

  18. This article shows that arsenal had been relegated before so no worries…They should jst stop blabbering about this issue..woolwich arsenal is still gunners arsenal

  19. No arguments “Arsenal” has never been relegated. Cox there’s a change in Name, which shows the new beginning,,, which indicated that the old things has passed away.for resistance if “woolwich Arsenal” we’re change completely to “Ronaldo” would you tell me Ronaldo has been Relegated before. Yes or No

  20. Arsenal never relegated since its name change to (Arsenal)

  21. If Arsenal has never been relegated can someone please tell me when was the Club Founded? Last time I checked it was founded in 1886.I haven’t seen anywhere that says Arsenal was re founded.

  22. Yes Arsenal were founded in 1886, playing one game as Dial Square, and then becoming Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal, The Arsenal and finally Arsenal. But as the article says we were relegated on 12 April 1913), returning to the top division in 1919, from whence we have never departed.

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