By Tony Attwood
It may have been the death of the King that did it, it may have been the worry over jobs, or it may have been a reaction to a dreadful season, but whatever the reason, local people failed to buy shares in Woolwich Arsenal FC when it was offered for sale in May 1910.
This was the last throw of the dice, the last attempt to salvage the club, and it was failing.
Of course it is easy to blame the locals for not buying up shares in the club, but one must remember that earlier in 1910 the torpedo factory had been moved to the Clyde, and with it 1000 jobs. Men were leaving to find new work, and the future looked grim.
It was not so much that people didn’t believe in the club, they didn’t believe in the future of Woolwich as a thriving employer. (This is something that is explored in more depth in “Making the Arsenal” – the book about 1910.)
So the owners of the existing club did the only thing they could do. They swallowed their pride and took the tram to Fulham, where they met with Henry Norris, and begged him to buy the shares.
Norris made no immediate offer, because simply owning another club was not his prime interest. He already had two clubs (Croydon Common and Fulham) and one more didn’t really make much sense – unless he could move his new club to Fulham either for amalgamation or for ground sharing.
So Norris expressed interest, but otherwise kept quiet, as behind the scenes he started to put together the plans that he would ultimately put to the Football League at their AGM.
Meanwhile the shares remained largely unsold. £1 each – and later five for £3.
It is worth noting that these were the self-same shares that change hands today at £10,000 each. If we take into account inflation in the past 100 years then the actual equivalent value of today’s shares in the currency of 100 years ago is £1,000,000 each. Yes, really, £1m a share.
The value of the shares in Woolwich Arsenal have gone up one million times per share in the course of 100 years. Or basically at a rate of ten thousand times a year.
Not a bad investment really.