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The Emergence of Footballing CulturesManchester, 1840-1919$

Gary James

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526114471

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7765/9781526114495

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Scandal and rights

Scandal and rights

(p.202) 9 Scandal and rights
The Emergence of Footballing Cultures

Gary James

Manchester University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The main focus of this chapter is analysis of a major scandal which decimated Manchester City in 1906–7. As a direct result of the treatment of players during the 1906–7 bribe scandal, the Players’ Union was established in Manchester. This was a crucial period in the evolution of football, with players’ rights coming to the fore as a result of the illegal payments scandal at City. The chapter also considers the career of Ernest Mangnall, who was a major influence on both United and City, bringing United their first trophy successes during this period. Although he tends to be remembered as United’s first successful manager, he contributed significantly to both clubs, providing United with ambition and a stadium of quality and City with their own major stadium and the ability to strengthen their support.

Keywords:   Scandal, Manchester City, Players’ Union, Ernest Mangnall


The long-term impact of the 1904 FA Cup success was demonstrated by the increase in footballing activity in Manchester, with participation, competitions and the number of teams growing and attendances developing. Crowd figures fluctuated, but Manchester City became the best-supported club in the Football League in 1910–11 and 1914–15 and remained a major crowd puller into the present.1 The successes gained in football and the subsequent homecoming in 1904 were reported as all-encompassing, with no differentiation in the levels of enthusiasm experienced across communities within the city.2 This idealised Mancunian community may in itself have engendered a greater community spirit and, potentially, football helped to cement social stability. The 1904 success was considered to be Manchester’s, and rivalry between the two major Manchester clubs was not an issue, many people supporting both at this point. This situation continued into the 1960s, with supporters tending to view success in terms of Manchester against the rest, and this was typical in many large cities. With United developing as a force in the Second Division and the Manchester FA affiliated directly to the FA, Manchester football appeared to be well organised, structured and progressive. It was perceived as part of Mancunian life, and when the winter of 1904/5 proved particularly harsh, with many locals dying of cold and malnutrition and unemployment high, football contributed to relief efforts. On 23 January City staged a charity game against music hall entertainer George Robey’s ‘Team of Internationals’ at Hyde Road to raise money, and at that game and others at Hyde Road blankets were carried around the pitch for people to throw donations into.3 These acts added to the acceptance of football in the city, and City also made their venue available for other charities and altruistic activities. This may have contributed to the allure of the club, which, through initiatives such as promoting schools’ football and establishing a boys’ stand free of parental involvement, gave the club a position of strength within the community. The special relationship between City and Mancunians could do nothing to prevent the devastating blow that was to follow, however.

Some FA officials considered City to be a nouveau riche club determined (p.203) to ensure success and, in the days of a £4 maximum weekly player’s wage, this usually meant making additional payments to players. As City was known to have several high-profile supporters, including the newspaper baron Edward Hulton, who had been chairman in 1903–4 and whose newspapers tended to promote the northern, professional clubs’ views, it could be suggested that the FA was keen to limit the growth of professional, big-city northern clubs like City. The FA, perceived as a southern body dominated by amateurs, was unhappy with Manchester’s success and its officials were keen to prevent football’s amateur, sporting nature from being lost forever, although the battle had already been lost.4 Nevertheless, the FA councillors liked to keep up the pretence and the FA decided to investigate City’s 1904 success. Within two weeks of the FA Cup final the FA secretary, F. J. Wall, and a member of the FA General Council, John Lewis, arrived at Hyde Road demanding to see the club’s books. Lewis was a somewhat controversial referee with fixed views on what was acceptable behaviour and what was not, and he was also a campaigner for the temperance movement.5 Considering the relationship that Joshua Parlby and the club had with the brewing industry, Lewis’s involvement was potentially an issue. Lewis and Wall spent the closed season examining City’s accounts, scrutinising every document, determined to find proof of illegal wages and bonuses, but ended their investigations with nothing more than a couple of discrepancies in the transfers of Frank Norgrove and Irvine Thornley from Glossop. They uncovered receipts for unusual payments coinciding with the dates of the players’ transfers and determined that these were signing-on fees paid to the players more than the £10 maximum then allowed. To preserve their amateur image, the FA had insisted on maximum signing-on fees in addition to the £4 maximum wage rule, but First Division clubs tended to break the rules, and some were adept at not bringing due attention to themselves. As Meredith said: ‘Of course clubs are not punished for breaking laws. They are punished for being found out.’6 Unlike the others, City was a club unable to keep its activities quiet.

In October 1904 City were fined £250 and Hyde Road was ordered to be closed for two games, while directors Joshua Parlby, John Chapman and Lawrence Furniss were banned for three years and the finance director, G. Madders, was suspended for life. This conflict with the public school-dominated FA brought the club support from the regional press and League officials, adding to the impression that Manchester’s footballing culture was somewhat different to London’s, a view certainly articulated by the Manchester-based sporting newspapers throughout the debate. The departure of Furniss, Chapman and Parlby was particularly distressing for those connected with the club, especially the loss of Parlby. His vision had established City as a major force and his long-term planning had raised the club from its status as a team representing a district to one that appealed across a major conurbation. Parlby remained (p.204) interested in the affairs of the club, however, and four years later, at the age of fifty-four, he rejoined the board at a time when the club needed his direction once again. He remained active until 1915, when City made a presentation to mark his retirement and in acknowledgement of the part he had played in the club’s relaunch.7 Parlby was the first man to take Manchester football to a position of prominence in the national game. He died on 19 May 1916, aged sixty-one.8

With long-serving member Lawrence Furniss and chairman John Chapman also punished, the FA in effect banned City’s three most influential figures. The player Irvine Thornley was suspended for the rest of the season, but the reasons why he received an illegal payment demonstrate more about the way the sport was developing than about the perceived profligacy of an ambitious club. In transferring to City, Thornley had been forced to relinquish a share in a lucrative butcher’s business in Glossop for the uncertainties of professional football. Butchering provided a guaranteed income, or at least it was a more stable occupation than football. His decision to leave the business was a gamble, and so it is understandable that he would seek extra security and that the club would offer it. The payment was against FA rules, but was it morally wrong? The debates on player fees and income continued into the present, but the restrictions in place at the time seemed unreasonable. Thornley would undoubtedly have known of the deaths in 1902 of two of the City team, Di Jones and Jimmy Ross, and the financial problems that those tragedies caused for their families. Jones had cut his leg in the annual public practice match and within a week had died from blood poisoning and lock-jaw, while Ross had also died suddenly.9 Neither player had had enough savings or investments to keep their families after their deaths; the precarious nature of a footballer’s life would have been obvious to Thornley. Coincidentally, the FA had also been investigating Thornley’s former club, Glossop, who, under the leadership of Samuel Hill-Wood, were also viewed as a progressive northern outfit keen to spend whatever it took to attract the best players. Hill-Wood would later turn his attentions to Arsenal, but at this time his club was Glossop and the FA uncovered suspicious information and discrepancies between their accounts and those of City, adding to the situation at Hyde Road. City and Glossop were not the only local clubs investigated at this time, as United were also rumoured to have made illegal payments to players and an investigation culminated in the presentation of a report to the FA Council which proved that illegal payments had been made and improper accounting procedures were in place. James West and Harry Stafford were held accountable and were suspended until May 1907.10

Despite the issues behind the scenes, the popularity of City meant that the club was able to continue its development both on the pitch and off, with over £2,000-worth of stadium improvements helping to increase capacity by around (p.205) 10,000 by mid-November 1904. In addition, the club improved entrances and exits, and decorated the stadium, with almost every area of the ground painted blue and white, adding to the spectacle of match day when residents would walk through dark railway arches and smoky streets to reach the Hyde Road turnstiles. It was this spectacle that helped to ensure that Manchester’s football fans were encouraged to be part of the experience. At Hyde Road supporters are known to have worn fancy dress, taken musical instruments and generally participated in the game’s events. The Boys’ Stand was home to a raucous and spirited gathering of boys and young men and they developed a close affinity with the club. Match day offered an escape from the reality of everyday life in a grim industrial city, and in the months following City’s FA Cup win there appeared to be no greater place to experience the positives of Mancunian success. The nature of City’s rapid development meant that the FA continued to keep a close watch on the club and, as the 1904–5 season neared its end, a controversial game led to the club receiving the largest punishment any League side had ever experienced.

By mid-April City, Newcastle and Everton were in contention for the League title, leading to a climactic final day whereby any of those teams might finish as champions. Everton’s campaign was complete, and City and Newcastle were each a point behind; however, Newcastle had the better goal average. Manchester’s team needed to beat FA Cup holders Aston Villa in their final match and hope that Newcastle would fail to win. The Villa–City game proved to be a physical contest with numerous off-the-ball incidents and dangerous tackles. It finished 3–2 to Villa, ending City’s title hope, but there had been many flashpoints: ‘Leake found [Turnbull] a real hard opponent and … gathered up a handful of dirt and hurled it at the City man. Turnbull was not hurt and responded with an acknowledgement favoured by the bourgeoisie – thrusting two fingers in a figurative manner at the Villa man.’11 When Aston Villa’s Leake realised that the referee was not looking he ‘gave Turnbull a backhander’, which led to further retaliation from City’s Turnbull.12 The controversy continued post-match, and as Turnbull walked down the tunnel he was pulled inside the Villa dressing room and the door was closed behind him. A few seconds later he was thrown out, yelling, with marks on his face and ribs where he had clearly been kicked. Police had to be called into the ground to protect the Manchester players and an angry mob attempted to stone the City party as they left.

The days that followed saw the controversy deepen, with some newspapers, most notably those from the Midlands, defending Villa’s actions while others supported Turnbull.13 As there had been physical play in City’s crucial match with Everton eight days earlier, the FA set up a special committee to meet behind closed doors and consider the two games. Their investigations dragged on, and as the summer progressed the FA interviewed player after player in (p.206) their quest for the full facts. This was considered suspicious, especially by the northern newspapers, who were now convinced that the committee were seeking a greater discovery than merely a disrepute charge against one or two players. With the FA meeting in secret, rumour spread, and most were northerners convinced that the southern FA would make City the scapegoats. On 4 August 1905 the committee announced the suspension of J. T. Howcroft and R. T. Johns, the referees of the games at Everton and Villa respectively, and that Tom Booth of Everton and City’s Sandy Turnbull were to be suspended for one month; yet no mention was made of Villa’s Leake. This seemed unjust, but then came the news that City’s captain had ‘offered a sum of money to a player of Aston Villa to let Manchester City F.C. win the match. W. Meredith, of Manchester City F.C. was suspended from taking any part in football or football management from August 4, 1905 until April 30, 1906.’14 Initially Meredith claimed his innocence and suggested a reason for the findings, believing that Aston Villa had too much influence within the FA and that ‘City is becoming too popular to suit some other clubs’.15 He was appalled, and was further disgusted when he was banned from City, which, under FA guidance, was forced to distance itself from him. These actions prompted him to complain, causing the FA to set up a new commission as the whole affair began to unravel. The FA interviewed City players and management about the bribe and about potential illegal payments to players, and confusion engulfed Manchester’s footballing community. Meredith changed his story, claiming that he had offered Leake a £10 bribe, but he told the commission that this had been at manager Tom Maley’s suggestion and with full approval from the rest of the City team. The manager totally refuted the claim, but admitted that payments were made to players for more than the maximum wage, claiming that this was regular business practice in England. Meredith stated that if all First Division clubs were investigated, ‘not four would come out scatheless’.16 At least seven clubs were investigated between 1901 and 1911, including United. Many more were thought to have been guilty but escaped punishment.17

The commission reported on 31 May 1906 that in their opinion City had been overpaying for years and the players had gained control at the club, although none of this had been uncovered during the extensive and detailed investigation during the summer of 1904, raising questions about the validity of their opinion. It seemed incredible that Lewis and Wall, two of the game’s most thorough administrators, had not uncovered such issues a year earlier, raising the question of whether the evidence existed at all. While the maximum wage was £4, it was estimated that Meredith had been earning £6 and another player had received £6 10s. Even the amateur Sam Ashworth was found to have received £50 on top of £25 expenses and was subsequently declared a professional by the commission. The punishment was harsh, with a total of seventeen current and former players being suspended until 1 January 1907. (p.207) Tom Maley and former chairman Waltham Forrest were to be suspended from English football sine die, while directors Allison and Davies were to be suspended for seven months. City were fined £250 and the suspended players had to pay a total of £900 in fines, but the entire process and bans were criticised. Three men appealed, as they had been reserve players during 1904–5 and, even after bonuses were included, had not received the maximum £208 in wages. Surprisingly, their appeal failed, as did a petition, signed by 4,128 Mancunians, against all the suspensions, demonstrating the significance of the sport to Manchester at the time and highlighting the injustice felt across the city. Billy Meredith was highly critical of the hypocrisy of those sitting in judgement: ‘while their representatives were passing this pious resolution most of them had other representatives busy trying to persuade the “villains whose punishment had been so well deserved” to sign for them under conditions very much better in most cases than the ones we had been ruled by at Hyde Road’.18 The punishment was the largest ever imposed, wiping out an entire team, its directors and one of the most charismatic managers of the period.19

For Meredith, City and Manchester the illegal payments scandal was to have major consequences. The player was forced out of the club that had made him a name, while City had to rebuild itself. The 1906–7 season was always going to be tough, but City’s status as Manchester’s leading club was also at risk, as United had been promoted the previous April and the two clubs would both be competing at the highest level for the first time. While City sought to redevelop their club, United opened the season with two victories and two draws. It was a promising start, but the most eagerly awaited fixture in the region was Manchester’s first top-flight derby match. This was staged in December and was met with tremendous scenes, as the role football played in Mancunian life was visible to all that day. Newspapers reported on the preparations, including the news that a Glasgow architect, probably the renowned stadium designer Archibald Leitch, had overseen improvements to City’s venue to accommodate a greater crowd.20 City won the match 3–0, but the most significant aspect of the day in terms of Manchester football’s longue durée came in the offices after the game, where the sale of several of the banned players occurred. Negotiations had been ongoing for some time, but it was derby day that brought the most significant transfers, although some footballing historians have mistakenly located the entire sale at the Queen’s Hotel in the city centre. There were representatives from at least eight clubs at Hyde Road, but it took several days before the facts emerged of which clubs had been successful.21 Ultimately, four of the club’s most significant players, Herbert Burgess, Sandy Turnbull, Jimmy Bannister and Billy Meredith signed for United, with both City and their supporters delighted that these men were to remain local. The transfers occurred because United’s manager, Ernest Mangnall, was able to find his way into the offices at City before his rival managers had the opportunity to do so. When he emerged (p.208) the representative of another club, thought to be Everton, asked him: ‘What have you been doing? I’ve been waiting to be called in. Who have you got?’ Mangnall then reeled off the names which, in effect, were the most significant players involved.22 City’s decision to sell to United caused Everton to complain to the League, as they had been hopeful of signing Burgess and believed that his transfer had been performed in an underhand manner. Manchester’s clubs wanted to ensure that these men remained in the region.

The Meredith transfer was the most significant, and it became complicated, demonstrating that football transfer dealings could still be somewhat suspicious, with mysterious payments being made that, considering the entire scandal had revolved around illegal payments, should have been investigated. City received nothing for the player; but worse, according to Meredith: ‘I was given a free transfer and, as a result, I got £500 from a gentleman to sign for Manchester United and he also paid the £100 fine to the FA.’23 Who that gentleman was remained a mystery, and while Mancunians were delighted that the player was staying in the region, the FA should have investigated, particularly as it had been Meredith’s own testimony that had transformed the initial investigation from on-the-pitch disciplinary matters into an investigation of bribery and illegal payments.

While the immediate impact of the punishments and transfers was documented extensively at the time, little has been published on the long-term impact of the investigations into City, its players and officials. It damaged several careers and led to financial problems for some, including Sammy Frost, who committed suicide some twenty years later as a result of business failure.24 The scandal in its entirety should be viewed as a transformational cycle during which multiple interrelated events led to the transformation of United’s fortunes. In terms of Braudel’s longue durée theory, this cycle demonstrates how a community or activity can adapt, progress and develop through events that, in isolation, are merely individual moments where people diverge from their normal activity. Sandy Turnbull’s two-fingered reaction in the game with Aston Villa could easily have been forgotten, overlooked or punished at the time by the referee; however it led to a chain of activities which ensured that the game would be investigated further. Those investigations highlighted several other issues, seemingly minor in isolation, such as accounting errors, overpayment of players and unreliable evidence, which in turn caused a prominent football team to suffer a severe punishment and encourage its most important players to sign for its neighbours. Those neighbours were recognised as the less significant of the two clubs, and at the time of the transfers no one could have predicted what would happen, but the result was that those players helped to transform their new club into Manchester’s next successful club. As with the appearance of a lost dog, the departure of Meredith and the others from City had been accidental, i.e. it had not been part of a grand plan established by (p.209) either Manchester club, but its impact was significant. By this time City had been established as a successful club with vast support, and the bans did not lead to the club’s failing, although they did end their trophy-winning potential for a while. United were some distance behind and appeared destined to always be the city’s second team. The bans and transfers provided a platform and opportunity for United to establish their own success and to provide Manchester with two prominent and challenging clubs.

United’s successes

The four former City players – Bannister, Burgess, Turnbull and Meredith – all made their United debuts on New Year’s day 1907 against, ironically, Aston Villa, and it was with some satisfaction that Sandy Turnbull, the man who had been a central figure on the day of the infamous Villa–City match of 1905, netted the only goal of the match. Demonstrating the attraction of Meredith and the others, United’s attendance that day was recorded by the club’s management as 40,000, significantly higher than their average, which in 1905–6 was 13,950 as they were promoted from Division Two at the end of the 1905–6 season and in 1906–7 increased to 20,725. The immediate impact on the Reds was evident and, as well as a substantial increase in support, United found that the players helped to transform their fortunes. Prior to Meredith and the others arriving, United’s record had not been great. They had struggled to establish themselves in the top division and were on eighteen points after winning six games, drawing six and losing nine. With the new players they achieved eleven victories, two draws and four defeats and, had the new players arrived earlier, United might well have challenged for the League that season. Instead they finished eighth.

The following campaign further proved the new players’ significance as United won the League for the first time, becoming the first Manchester side to achieve that success. Meredith and the other former City men were key players in that achievement, with Sandy Turnbull the leading goal scorer with twenty-five goals from thirty games – a figure not bettered at United until Rowley netted twenty-six in thirty-seven games during the 1946–47 season. United had a phenomenal season, winning the title nine points clear of City, who finished third on equal points with second-placed Aston Villa. City’s third-place finish was a remarkable achievement, considering the problems that had ripped the club apart, but United’s success brought most pride and satisfaction to the region and one of the major talking points was the role of the former City men. It was evident that Meredith and the other former Blues made the difference between Manchester’s two clubs, and their involvement first in City’s glory in 1904 and then United’s in 1908 was significant to this transformational period in Manchester’s football history. The period continued to be (p.210) successful for United, and in 1909 the Reds won the FA Cup for the first time. Approximately 10,000 supporters, a smaller number than in 1904, but still considerable, travelled from Manchester for United’s first FA Cup final. Despite the fewer numbers it was remarked once again that ‘a striking feature was the number of young women and girls making the journey’.25 In Manchester similar scenes to those of 1904 followed, and the local media talked of 1904 and its impact. United asked City director Albert Alexander, who owned a carriage company, to lead United’s homecoming as he had done in 1904, and the general impression was that this was a continuation of Manchester’s success, not specifically that of one team. The council leaders even gave United a civic reception at the town hall – something for which the leaders had seen no reason for only five years earlier – and this allowed two main focal points for the homecoming, Central Railway Station and Albert Square, where crowds could gather. It is possible that the civic leaders recognised that 1904 had brought prestige to Manchester and that it had also allowed a means of encouraging patriotism in the city, especially at a time when unemployment, homelessness and food shortages were perhaps causing some to question whether Manchester had anything to offer them. The civic leaders may have realised that a suitably celebrated homecoming could have a cathartic effect locally – which supports Beaven’s belief that the popular notion of citizenship can be defined by support for the local football club, rather than through municipal initiatives or civic architecture;26 although Beaven goes on to argue that ‘supporting the local football team cultivated a symbolic class-specific form of citizenship’ rather than one supported by all classes.27 Russell argues that football has undeniably been most effective in building local attachments.28

Ernest Mangnall managed United to another League title in 1911 and, appropriately, he was viewed by many as the major influence in each of those achievements, although another renowned footballing man, John Bentley, performed the role of chairman, director and advisor to the Reds at times during this period, earning on average £300 per year from 1903 and a total of £1,400 by 1909.29 It is evident that Mangnall, with Bentley’s advice and Davies’ finances, had transformed United into a progressive, successful club where Davies was willing to make significant investments in order to establish a powerful club.


While United became strengthened following the City bans, the players remained somewhat disgusted with their treatment by the footballing authorities. The investigation into their financial activities had begun in 1904, reopened in 1905 and led to bans until 1907. The length of the process and the bans impacted on their finances and careers. It is understandable that the entire experience would be remembered and considered whenever the affected players (p.211) met, and in 1907 the illegal payments scandal was a catalyst for the establishment of a union. As far as Billy Meredith was concerned the illegal payments were fair – after all, they were illegal only in the eyes of the FA, not the fans, not the players and not the directors. Why should football clubs be limited in their ability to pay players a rate applicable to their value and to compensate them for loss of earnings, as in Thornley’s case? Throughout industrial Manchester at this time there was much debate concerning working conditions and wages, and whereas some of the region’s industries could guarantee a job for life, or at least gave that impression, footballers had few guarantees and a limited career span. Throughout his suspension Meredith considered the injustices which he and his team had suffered, and it is possible that he also thought back to the deaths of Di Jones and Jimmy Ross in 1902. City had staged a benefit match for the widow and children of the late Di Jones in September 1902 and held various collections, but other players’ families were less well provided for.30 Regardless of how well a club provided for its players, football’s governing bodies gave them few rights and, as the illegal payments scandal had demonstrated, the FA would punish players when clubs were perceived to have been too profligate with their finances. Players required representation and, as the trade union movement grew, it was perhaps understandable that in a city viewed as a radical one attempts would be made to establish a footballers’ union. One had been established in 1897 and Jimmy Ross is known to have been one of its founders. In February 1898 the union had drawn up its rules and made them public at a meeting held at the Spread Eagle Hotel in Manchester, where it was also revealed that 250 League players had signed up. Despite the support, the union had collapsed at the end of the 1900–1 season. In 1907 Meredith openly talked about resurrecting the union in some way.

On 2 December 1907 the first meeting of the new union was held at the Imperial Hotel, London Road, Manchester. In attendance were four members of City’s 1904 Cup-winning side and Thornley, the player who had been punished in 1904 following financial discrepancies in his move from Glossop to City. Three of the City men were now with United, of course. Four other United men were present, including Charlie Roberts, and there were other players from several mainly northern clubs, although a Tottenham player also attended. John Davies, the wealthy brewer and United chairman became a vice-president, as did James Catton, the editor of Athletic News, while a City director acted as solicitor. These details are important, as they show that the clubs, certainly the larger clubs in the region, were keen to not only demonstrate their support but also participate in the union’s development. United’s chairman, Davies provided funds to help with transport for the union’s benefit games, as he recognised that supporting the union would benefit his club initially, but as time progressed the management of both United and City began to distance themselves a little, especially when the union became more radical. In 1909 (p.212) the union decided to take Reading to court on behalf of one of its players who was seeking compensation under the Workman’s Compensation Act of 1906 in what was an important test for the union, which believed the club was deliberately prevaricating over settling the claim and that resolution could be achieved only through legal action. Union secretary Herbert Broomfield, a City player, carried out most of the union’s action as the situation worsened, while the FA insisted that they alone decided disputes between football clubs and players, not a court of law. Broomfield countered this with strong argument, but it was not long before it became apparent that the issue would become a make-or-break moment for the union, especially as leading figures started to criticise it. The FA removed its official recognition from the union, which was a significant blow, and rumours of a potential players’ strike circulated, with the newspapers full of comment and rumour. The union’s chairman, Harry Mainman, had said in April 1909: ‘We look upon the clubs as enemies of the players.’31

Inevitably, the union solicitor, City director Wilkinson, resigned, as he recognised a conflict of interests, and United’s management became less supportive. The FA also announced that players must relinquish their union membership if ‘they desire to continue their connection with the FA’.32 This statement had a significant impact and the entire management committee of the union, except for secretary Broomfield and chairman Mainman, resigned. The summer of 1909 saw Broomfield working relentlessly on behalf of the union and his efforts helped to determine its strength in the following decades. As the 1909–10 season approached the situation came to a head at United, where players refused to resign from the union and were suspended by the club. United somehow avoided telling the players of their suspensions, and the first that Charlie Roberts knew of them was when the day’s newspapers were delivered to his newsagent’s shop. The following Friday Roberts and the other players arrived at United demanding their wages, but there was nothing for them and they were, in effect, banned from the ground, so Roberts and the others talked with Broomfield and he arranged for them to train at the Manchester Athletic Club ground in Fallowfield, the site of the 1893 FA Cup final.

A number of journalists and photographers were contacted and Roberts created a famous story when:

After training a day or two a photographer came along to take a photo of us and we willingly obliged him. Whilst the boys were being arranged I obtained a piece of wood and wrote on it, “Outcasts Football Club 1909” and sat down with it in front of me to be photographed. The next day the photograph had a front page of a newspaper, much to our enjoyment, and the disgust of several of our enemies.33

On 11 August it was announced that Newcastle United’s players would support United’s men, and soon other significant clubs followed, including Oldham, Everton, Liverpool and Sunderland. Ultimately the growth in support made (p.213) the threat of a players’ strike likely, and inevitably this forced the parties to come together. After various meetings suspensions were lifted, wages were to be paid, the union recognised and the strike avoided, but there were plenty of complications along the way. Inevitably both the union and the FA claimed victory, but one of the key men, Billy Meredith, felt that Broomfield deserved the most praise, saying: ‘Herbert Broomfield is the first player who has pointed out to the players that they can protect themselves by unity and that if their cause was right they had no reason to fear saying so’, adding ‘a grander, pluckier fight was never made than Broomfield has made!’34

Broomfield’s name is often overlooked when the formation of the union and the 1909 Outcasts are discussed, but his involvement was significant during this transformational phase in players’ rights and representation. The formation of the Professional Footballers’ Association, as it became known, owes much to the men of the Manchester region who made a stand. The union needed and received support from beyond Manchester, but its creation came because of the desire by those punished as part of City’s illegal payments scandal to improve conditions for their fellow professionals. Its success and continued growth came from the stand made by the Outcasts in 1909. Manchester gave birth to the union at a time when players were treated poorly by the football authorities. In the years that followed the City scandal and United’s Outcasts, the importance of the union grew, but there were still serious financial hardships for players. Even the most successful of players found life outside of the game tough.

Old Trafford

While the players’ union development demonstrated that Manchester’s players were keen on strengthening their representation and power within the game, Manchester’s clubs were seeking to build on the popularity of the sport by developing better facilities and capacities at their grounds. Ever since he had begun investing in United, club president John Davies recognised that United’s Bank Street ground was inadequate, and this view intensified following the club’s promotion in 1906, it began visiting League grounds of the quality of Villa Park and Goodison Park frequently. Davies had invested in facilities shortly after his arrival, but Bank Street could only ever be patched up and, as the Reds began winning trophies, he considered the options. He owned land at Old Trafford, to the west of Manchester, and had been hoping to develop a bottling plant there for his brewery. Its proximity to the Ship Canal and the huge Trafford Park industrial estate, developed at a rapid pace following the opening of the canal in 1894, made it a good location, but issues with the authorities prevented the bottling plant from being erected. The land was unprofitable unless Davies could identify an alternative use, and he realised (p.214) that it could resolve the ground issue. As United’s board was dominated by Davies and brewery officials, the idea was passed.35 He decided to build the most modern stadium in the country and provided the £60,000 required for its construction, but Davies was not the altruistic figure often portrayed.36 An FA inquiry in 1910 identified that he received rent payments from United for land that they did not use, the payments made to him between 1903 and 1909 totalling £5,743.37 The FA concluded that ‘Davies knew that the moneys he had been finding had been improperly expended, and special arrangements were then made to prevent his sustaining pecuniary loss, he continued from that time regularly and persistently to find further money for similar purposes, and to withhold the information from the auditor.’38 Whether supporters recognised that their saviour was also profiting from the club at times is not apparent, but they did voice concern over the planned ground move, and they were not convinced that a move to Old Trafford would work for their club: ‘the loyal old Clayton supporters did not like the idea at all. There were those who said such a huge place on the other side of the city would be a financial failure.’39 The supporters’ views were close to the truth, certainly during the three decades following United’s 1910 move, and support dropped despite United winning the League title at Old Trafford in 1910–11. The ground was too far across the city for many of the club’s traditional fans, and when the struggles of the 1920s and 1930s followed attendances plummeted, and the financial burden of the venue following Davies’ death was too great. The selection of Old Trafford was somewhat odd. In 1909 the area as a whole was more salubrious than Clayton, but professional clubs like United and City relied on the patronage of the working classes to sustain them, and Old Trafford was no match for east Manchester when it came to density of working-class population.40 Others saw Old Trafford’s social character as a positive, suggesting that it could generate support: ‘now that the United ground is in a more salubrious neighbourhood the people of Manchester will support them well’.41 This may well have been part of the site’s attraction, but United had become a successful club within a working-class district of the city, not a neighbouring middle-class borough, and it was ‘the working-class parts of the city that provide a disproportionate contribution to football’s fandom’.42 The Old Trafford site was over five miles from the club’s Newton Heath heartland, making it the furthest any club had ever moved. The previous furthest had been Sheffield Wednesday, who moved around three miles when they left Sheffield for Owlerton (Hillsborough) in 1899. Like Wednesday, United were moving outside of the city’s boundaries. The Sheffield move has been described as ‘daring and speculative’ and the same was true for United’s transfer to the relative peace and tranquillity of a middle-class borough on the opposite side of the city.43 It was a major gamble and it financially crippled the club for more than two decades. Of course, there were trams and trains travelling to that part of the region, but a United supporter (p.215) working on a Saturday morning in the Clayton area would have had to travel into Manchester city centre first, then out to Old Trafford in time for a 3pm or 3.30pm kick-off.44 Regardless of supporters’ feeling or potential issues Davies ploughed on with his stadium plans. Secretary-manager Ernest Mangnall was given control of the development, which was for a capacity of 100,000 with 12,000 seated and covered terracing for 24,000. These plans were scaled down somewhat, but what was delivered was significantly better than any earlier venue.45 The dimensions were impressive, the entire area being sixteen acres, with the exterior circumference of the ground being approximately 2,000 feet. The ground was planned to be 630 feet long and 510 feet broad, with the width of the terracing 120 feet. The pitch was to be excavated to a depth of nine feet from ground level, resulting in the stadium being only about thirty feet high. The site did have one major flaw, and that was that it had to be constructed on an east–west axis rather than north–south. Typically, football grounds were designed with the main stand on the west side of the pitch and the goals at the northern and southern ends, for rather simple reasons. First, neither goalkeeper had to directly face the sun, and second, the directors and wealthier customers sitting in the club’s main stand would not have their vision impaired by a glaring sun, assuming that games would be on Saturday afternoons. The geography of the site did not allow space for a 100,000-capacity venue to be constructed on a north–south axis, and even when the plans were scaled down the original layout remained, with hopes that additional developments would raise the capacity in subsequent years. In terms of admission charges these were priced at 6d, 1s, 1s 6d, and 2s, which were on a par with or, in some cases, cheaper than City’s, although there was no mention of a reduced price for children or women.46 The lowest adult price of 6d was relatively cheap. As a comparison, that amount could buy three pounds of white sugar or five eggs, demonstrating that a regularly employed worker could afford it.47

The £60,000 stadium opened with a visit by Liverpool, a club United were particularly close to at this time, but there were some difficulties. These included the inability to serve alcohol, as there had been a licensing issue and the stadium was incomplete.48 The boundary walls were not finished and some windows had not been properly installed, allowing some to sneak in. The official attendance for Old Trafford’s opening game was 45,000, an impressive figure, but only 5,000 more than Bank Street had held earlier that season, and at least 10,000 less than anticipated.49 Davies had hoped that the move would immediately provide United with a greater volume of support, and logistically it ought to have done so as, unlike in east Manchester, there were few soccer clubs on this side of the city for supporters to choose between. There was one potential rival soccer attraction, the Manchester League side Salford United, who played at The Willows and had applied to join the Football League in 1907. Their application had failed, but they did win the Manchester League (p.216) in 1910 and were performing well at the time when United became resident at Old Trafford in February of that season. Whether Salford United affected Manchester United’s opening attendances is not clear, but the arrival of the League side did ultimately affect Salford. Manchester United were based on the border of Trafford and the city of Salford, and even the name United would have caused some confusion locally. The Salford club disbanded in the summer of 1910. Whether this was directly connected with United’s arrival on their doorstep is not clear, especially as Salford was still one of the conurbation’s strongest rugby areas. It may well be that the preference for rugby impacted on both clubs’ ability to attract large crowds.

As far as the opening game at Old Trafford was concerned, United had been leading 2–0 at half-time, with Sandy Turnbull netting the historic first goal. Despite this great start United lost their way and were defeated 4–3. The 1909–10 season progressed with United winning all their remaining seven home games, increasing the attractiveness of the new venue, but attendances did not match the quality of what was on offer. Apart from a couple of 40,000-plus crowds, which caused one journalist to claim that ‘There can be no question that United’s new quarters have resurrected a new interest in the club’, support appeared to be no better than at Bank Street and one match, against Everton, attracted only 5,500 spectators.50 Match performance often played a part in supporter interest in Manchester at this time, and winning teams were expected to attract greater support than a struggling side, but this was not apparent at Old Trafford, where United won the League in their first full season at the 70,000-plus venue. That year their average crowd increased to 19,950 (from 16,950) but was over 6,000 less than seventeenth-placed City in their 35,000-capacity venue. Even United’s average had been inflated somewhat by the first Manchester derby at the stadium, which had attracted a then record League crowd for either Manchester side of 60,000, adding almost 2,000 to the annual average. While Old Trafford would undoubtedly prove to be one of United’s greatest assets in the long term, especially after 1950, the move in 1910 was not the success that anyone had expected. It did not boost crowds by the margin hoped, and it created financial problems for the club in later years once Davies was unable to bankroll the club. It was the best venue of the era and contrasted well with both Bank Street and Hyde Road, which were cramped venues surrounded by terraced streets and industry, but the identification of Mancunians, particularly those in east Manchester, with their teams meant that the venue was only part of the lure. Bank Street was part of its community, while Old Trafford was distant and difficult to engage with, despite its obvious quality. Studies in later decades have identified that fans ‘display a proprietorial attachment to the football ground’, and while little research has been published on ground moves of the early twentieth century it is apparent that they were not always welcomed.51 Attachment to a place, no matter how ramshackle it may (p.217) be, contributes to quality of life, and Bank Street had a character and popularity which ensured that it was missed by supporters who felt that they belonged to a strong community, with their own viewing spaces and stand preferences.52

Old Trafford, as the most modern stadium in the country, staged the 1911 FA Cup final replay and the 1915 final, dubbed the Khaki final because of the large volume of soldiers attending. These were watched by crowds of 58,000 and 49,557, respectively, while United’s biggest home League crowd of the period, 60,000 for the Manchester derby in September 1910, was not bettered until 1920, when another meeting with City attracted 63,000. In the years in between only twelve League games and two FA Cup matches had attracted crowds above 40,000, the perceived capacity of Bank Street.53 In terms of Braudel’s longue durée, the move to Old Trafford should have been a key event in a transformational cycle, and in terms of quality of facilities and stadium construction it was a significant event, but in the full history of United it was an event which caused the club to stagnate somewhat. The convoluted financial arrangements established by John Davies restricted United’s opportunities, and while he was openly perceived as the man who had funded the stadium, both his brewery and Davies personally benefited from the club’s move. According to an FA commission investigating the finances of United, the club was paying unreasonable amounts for the stadium, including an annual rent of £1,229 for the ground itself, plus £740 for neighbouring land which it did not use, and had had to pay £18,000 to build the stands and offices.54 Without Davies, United might well have remained at Bank Street, struggling along, but the relaunch of the club in 1902 could well have proved successful without Davies’ investment and, as with City at Hyde Road, the familiarity of the ground and the passionate support of east Mancunians might well have generated new life for the relaunched club. Of course, Davies funded player acquisitions and made other improvements, bringing the club its first successes, and these continued at Old Trafford initially. United won the League in their first full season there, but that was their last success until the late 1940s and so, the move was a key event in the club’s transformation from one that enjoyed a growing support at Bank Street and major success to one with dwindling support and limited success. It is rarely viewed in this manner, of course, as the United of the 1940s onwards and the remodelled stadium developed from the 1960s tend to provide a perception that United have always been a success and Old Trafford has always been packed, but it was not until 1949–50 that the stadium attracted an average crowd of more than half the stadium’s perceived 75,000 capacity and, even then this followed several seasons at Maine Road which had lifted United’s support to new levels.55 Two events in the aftermath of United’s move, connected with City, may well have impacted on the attractiveness of United: improvements to Hyde Road in 1910 and the appointment of Ernest Mangnall as the new City manager in 1912.

City’s Hyde Road expenditure in 1910 was approximately £3,000, which (p.218) was a fraction of the cost to erect Old Trafford, but they built three roofs and made improvements to the catering facilities and customer areas of the ground. To counteract the lure of Old Trafford, City boasted that the newly refurbished Hyde Road would hold over 35,000 under cover, whereas Old Trafford could manage only about a quarter of that. By providing cover on all four sides of the ground City enabled fans of all classes and types to watch games at Hyde Road in their preferred stands. The familiarity of City’s home and its position within the working-class district of Ardwick, close to major tram routes, ensured its popularity and the 1910–11 season saw the Blues’ average attendance increase by 8,000 and, apart from occasional seasons, they were the better-supported Manchester club until the Second World War, with an average attendance of more than double United’s at times.56

Mangnall’s move

The appointment of Ernest Mangnall as City manager was another key event for the clubs during this period. For City to convince him to leave United after their success and move to Old Trafford was some feat. Mangnall, like Parlby before him, was a footballing visionary and while he had control of affairs at United the club progressed; however, the Reds’ first golden era ended abruptly at the start of the 1912–13 season with his sudden departure. Mangnall’s last United game was the Manchester derby, when it was already known that he would become City’s manager the following Monday and, indeed, he had already attended a City game at Nottingham and was thought to have participated in player selection.57 City won the game 1–0, while his United side drew 0–0 at Arsenal in his absence. In addition, he attended the directors’ selection meetings at both United and City prior to his last United match and made his feelings known about which players should be selected.58 A film crew recorded the derby, and this is the oldest known surviving Manchester derby footage, which was shown in France under the title: ‘Match De Football Manchester’, although only nineteen seconds of it survive. The game was not a classic and City won 1–0, presumably giving Ernest Mangnall mixed feelings about the result, although one reporter aptly commented that ‘United speeded their manager rejoicing with two points to his new club’.59 At City Mangnall did not have the trophy success which he enjoyed at United but he did play a prominent role in the club’s move to the working-class Moss Side area, where they built the 85,000-capacity Maine Road stadium in 1923, meaning that he had been responsible for managing both clubs’ stadium moves. As a boy Mangnall had played football of both codes at Bolton Grammar School and won many prizes as a youth in cross-country running, and he had also cycled tremendous distances on an old penny-farthing bicycle in various competitions, even winning a race from Land’s End to John O’Groats on one.60

(p.219) Mangnall’s impact stretched beyond the two Manchester clubs and he was one of the leading voices behind the establishment of a strong league for reserve football. In 1911 the reserve sides of the significant local League clubs competed in the Lancashire Combination; however, other clubs competing in that competition believed that the League clubs were blocking their own development and took steps to vote League club officials off committees. Mangnall felt that the situation needed to be resolved and he contacted all the prominent local clubs, receiving support from Bolton Wanderers, Bury, Crewe Alexandra, Glossop, City, United, Oldham Athletic, Preston North End, Stockport County and Southport Central. A meeting was organised in May 1911 with City director W. A. Wilkinson as chairman. Everton’s Will Cuff was secretary and Mangnall outlined his plan for the Lancashire-based League sides to withdraw from the Combination and create a new competition. Further meetings followed in Manchester with every League club in Lancashire represented, plus Stockport County and Glossop. The name The Central League was adopted, and in June the founding thirteen members held an election meeting to select a further five clubs, one of whom was Rochdale. Rochdale had to withdraw due to an objection from the Combination which resulted in the FA blocking their membership and a financial loss on the season of £600, although the club did become a member twelve months later. As founder, Mangnall remained interested in the competition for the rest of his life. He was also credited with being one of the founders of the League Managers’ Association and he had suggested establishing the National War Fund for football during the First World War.61 Ernest Mangnall was a major influence on both United and City, although he tends to be remembered as United’s first successful manager. He contributed significantly to both clubs, providing United with ambition and a stadium of quality and City with their own major stadium and the ability to strengthen their support.


(1) Tabner, Football through the turnstiles.

(2) Russell, ‘Associating with football’, 19.

(3) ‘Items and incidents’, Manchester Courier, 11 February 1905, 9.

(5) S. Inglis, League football and the men who made it (London: Willow Books, 1988), 108–109.

(7) ‘Football and war’, Manchester Courier, 22 May 1915, 6.

(8) Probate records, Joshua Parlby, 1916; Census returns, Joshua Parlby 1911, https//:www.findmypast.co.uk (RG 14/23845)

(9) ‘Death of Di Jones’, Manchester Evening News, 27 August 1902, 5.

(10) ‘Payments to players’, Athletic News, 4 April 1910, 6.

(p.220) (11) Reported in Bolton Football Field as quoted in Harding, Football wizard, 100–105.

(13) Birmingham Sports Argus was particularly supportive of Aston Villa, while the Manchester-based papers supported City.

(14) ‘Important FA meeting’, Athletic News, 7 August 1905, 5.

(15) ‘I am innocent’, Hull Daily Mail, 7 August 1905, 4.

(16) ‘A significant statement’, Northern Daily Telegraph, 16 June 1906, 3.

(17) ‘The FA and Manchester United’, Athletic News, 4 April 1910, 6; S. Inglis, Soccer in the dock (London: Willow, 1985), 10–11.

(20) ‘City v United’, Manchester Courier, 1 December 1906, 9.

(21) Daily Dispatch, 6 December 1906, n.p.

(22) ‘Recipient of Ching Morrison’s present’, Manchester Football Chronicle, 8 April 1922, 3.

(24) ‘Player’s suicide’, Nottingham Journal, 3 March 1926, 9.

(25) Unidentified newspaper report quoted in R. Lewis, ‘Our lady specialists at Pikes Lane: female spectators in early English professional football, 1880–1914’, The International Journal of the History of Sport, 26:15 (2009), 2171.

(26) Beaven, Leisure, citizenship, 77–79.

(29) ‘The FA and Manchester United’, Athletic News, 4 April 1910, 6.

(30) ‘Football’, Dundee Evening Telegraph, 30 August 1902, 5.

(31) ‘The football squabble’, Yorkshire Evening Post, 28 August 1909, 4.

(32) ‘Drastic step by the FA’, Manchester Courier, 4 May 1909, 3.

(33) ‘The football dispute’, Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 1 September 1909, 6. www.m.thepfa.com/news/2015/10/28/pfa-purchases-charlie-roberts-1909-fa-cup-shirt.

(36) ‘Man who made United’, Manchester Football Chronicle, 20 January 1923, 3.

(38) ‘The FA and Manchester United’, Athletic News, 4 April 1910, 6.

(39) ‘Man who made United’, Manchester Football Chronicle, 20 January 1923, 3.

(40) Athletic News, 8 March 1909.

(41) Salford Chronicle, 19 February 1910.

(43) S. Inglis, The football grounds of Great Britain (London: Willow Books, 1987), 95.

(44) According to the Time zone map, 1914, produced by Manchester City Council Tramways Department, a journey from Bank Street, Clayton to Manchester city centre would take twenty to thirty minutes, with a similar length of time required for a journey from the city centre to Old Trafford.

(45) ‘A fine ground’, Manchester Evening Chronicle, 15 February 1910.

(p.221) (46) ‘Football gossip’, Daily Dispatch, 15 January 1904, 6.

(47) United Kingdom Board of Trade, Cost of living of the working classes, 294–304; Beaven, Leisure, citizenship, 72.

(48) Manchester Evening News, 17 February 1910; Salford Chronicle, 19 February 1910.

(49) I. Morrison and A. Shury, Manchester United a complete record, 1878–1990 (Derby: Breedon Books, 1990), 210.

(50) James, Manchester, a football history; Morrison and Shury, Manchester United a complete record, 210.

(51) Bale, Sport, space and the city, 169. Interviews by Gary James with Manchester-based supporters in the 1990s identified that Manchester City’s move from Hyde Road to Maine Road in 1923 was perceived by supporters as a move away from the club’s roots and it was felt that Hyde Road’s unique atmosphere could not be replicated at a concrete bowl of a stadium. It seems logical to suggest that those views would also apply to United’s move from Bank Street.

(52) J. Eyles, Senses of place (Warrington: Silverbrook, 1985); E. Relph, Place and placelessness (London: Pion, 1976), 65.

(53) Morrison and Shury, Manchester United a complete record. The two FA Cup attendances were 65,101 for the visit of Aston Villa in 1911, which was United’s record crowd at the time, and 59,300 against Blackburn Rovers in 1912.

(54) ‘The FA and Manchester United’, Athletic News, 4 April 1910, 6.

(56) Seasonal attendance figures for City, United, Oldham, Bury, Stockport and Rochdale appear in James, Manchester, a football history. These show that United’s average had dropped to 11,685 in the 1930–31 season, while City’s was 26,849. The largest average enjoyed by either team prior to 1939 was 37,468 at Manchester City in 1927–28 when the Blues were a Second Division club and United were in Division One, attracting 25,555.

(57) Some historians dispute that Mangnall was officially United’s manager on the day of the derby, but leading newspapers of the period, most notably Umpire and the Daily Dispatch, are perfectly clear that he was officially in charge.

(58) ‘Recipient of Ching Morrison’s present’, Manchester Football Chronicle, 8 April 1922, 3.

(59) ‘City win with ten men’, Umpire, 9 September 1912.

(60) ‘Recipient of Ching Morrison’s present’, Manchester Football Chronicle, 8 April 1922, 3.