We often hear today of how money has ruined English football, how it has corrupted the players, the clubs and so on, ever since the sudden infusion of Murdoch’s millions in the 1990s. What we perhaps forget is that complaints about the noxious connection between cash and the beautiful game are as old as professionalism itself.
To the right, for example, is a letter to the editor of The Times (of London, obviously) in November 1914. At that point, Britain was fighting World War One, and conscription had not yet been instituted, so recruitment of young men to the armed forces was a considerable priority for the nation. But apparently football — or more precisely, money and football — stood in the way: the letter-writer rather succinctly sums up why he felt the Football League had not been suspended at that point, despite the outbreak of war: “money”.
The Football League continued until the end of the season in 1915, after which point it was suspended to aid the army’s enlistment effort. Many footballers did enlist individually, with 11 members of Tottenham Hotspur killed in the fighting, for example.
Indeed, football was even used as a recruiting tool: “‘Pals’ Battalions’” made up of football clubs joined en masse, and posters such as the one to the right were used to encourage young men to join up and play “the greater game” on the battlefield (look closely, and you’ll see an image of a football game above the trenches).
War ultimately trumped money and football, in the end.
Note: this is the first in a possible new series of historical features on football from the past. What do you think? Something you’d like to see more of on pitchinvasion.net? As a historian myself, tales from the past always seem interesting to me, but then, I am a historian.