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Norris finally takes over Arsenal - but the future is still unclear

As we sit around in 2010 waiting and watching and wondering if Fabregas and Merida are really buzzing off to Spain, 100 years ago to the day those who cared about Woolwich Arsenal wondered about the ownership of the whole club.

There was no official announcement anywhere that Norris had now actually taken the club over, but journalists were suggesting that Norris had his solicitors working on setting up the new company and trying to sell as many shares as he could.

There are no formal records of any of this, but putting the bits and pieces together it looks to me as if Norris underwrote the final share offer in the new company made by the old board, and ended up with pretty much all of it – with just a small minority of shares being sold to local supporters and well-wishers.

In the first statement of ownership that has survived Norris and Hall have 240 shares each with Leavey, the previous owner, having 100 – a minority shareholding that left him involved in the club he had financed for so long, but not liable for any more debts.

Athletic News stated that people locally would not buy shares because of the persistent rumour that Norris was going to move the club – but it must also be remembered that the Woolwich torpedo factory was now closed, and people were looking out for their jobs.  If the torpedo factory had gone, what next?  It was not the moment to be putting money into a football club.

Norris’ first move was to confirm Morrell as manager – which meant that Norris felt he could control Morrell, and get him to keep pruning the costs of the club.  Given that Woolwich Arsenal had only missed out on relegation by one place, selling even more place didn’t look like a good footballing idea.

The local daily – the Kentish Independent – said however that Norris was promising to bring in new players, but it was probable that this was just a ploy by Norris to talk up the club, in the hope of selling more shares.

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Where next in 2010: Next Season: a set of articles about the current (2010) squad, the transfers, and who is moving up from the reserves  – not to mention a definitive analysis of how the 25 player system works.

The glorious future Everything else from 2010

The adventurous past Everything from 1910

What to read on the beach this summer

3 comments to Norris finally takes over Arsenal – but the future is still unclear

  • Ralph

    Hi Tony.

    Just like to query this if I may.

    According to Alan Roper’s ‘Real Arsenal Story’ there were 1280 shares. He has the same figures of shares as you have above but also has our impoverished friends from Middlesex owning 100 until 26/7, and a few minor holdings. Thing is though this would give Norris and Hall less than 40% of the club rather than ‘pretty much all of it’. Surely this is the point that our plurality of ownership really dates from?

  • Tony Attwood

    I don’t know of a definitive source of the shareholding for this period, and I am going to write to Arsenal to ask if they can give me the details.

    I think the numbers we are looking at are those fairly much at the start. I think (I keep saying that because I am not 100% on this) that the rest of the shares remained unsold until the deadline day for sales, and at that point Norris bought the rest up – giving him the club.

    The “Five for the price of three” offer and the “money back if we move” offer failed to bring in the extra sales, and simply left the shares unsold – again I think. Norris then picked up the rest in order to fulfil the commitments of the company in the share document.

    The story about Tottenham buying shares is in fact extremely flimsy and comes from just one source and is not confirmed at all. Indeed I think the only places where it is mentioned are in the Real Arsenal book and in “Making the Arsenal” – but remember my book is a work of fiction, so I was free to pick up such things and put them in. (The character of Mr Holloway in the story is there in many ways to remind the reader just how much of the press stories was made up even in those days)

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