Who ya gonna call?

Almost a century on, Arsenal’s election back into the First Division in 1919 continues to rankle Tottenham fans. Having shown that the reported events of that year have been the result of idle hands, there was one last tenet that Tottenham fans continued to spout as “the truth.” They have continued to put forth “precedence” as a reason for being wronged. If you don’t believe me you only have to do a simple search.

Deluded sp*rs fan

Deluded sp*rs fan

On 31 January 1919, The Sportsman reported on the case put forward by Tottenham to retain their position in Division One. They mentioned precedent and cited previous cases. However, they misinformed the public of what really happened.

The Sportsman 31 January 1919 - Tottenham economical with the truth

The Sportsman 31 January 1919 – Tottenham economical with the truth

Whilst flicking through an old edition of Gunflash that something caught my eye – an election in 1898 – and I thought it was worth looking into. The results will not make easy reading for Tottenham fans.

Gunflash October 1967

Gunflash October 1967

Let’s take a look at the how the Football League grew following its formation in 1888.

The Football League was formed in 1888 and originally comprised 12 clubs; it was not called Division One as there was no Second Division.

In the summer of 1891 the members agreed to expand the Football League to 14 clubs; there was still no Second Division.

The following year, the Football League was expanded to 16 clubs, and a second tier was formed, comprising of 12 clubs. These two divisions were known as Division One and Division Two. If we take a look at the final table for 1891-92, we see Accrington, West Bromwich Albion, Stoke and Darwen at the bottom of the table.

Football League final table 1891-92

Pos Team P W D L F A Pts
1 Sunderland 26 21 0 5 93 36 42
2 Preston North End 26 18 1 7 61 31 37
3 Bolton Wanderers 26 17 2 7 51 37 36
4 Aston Villa 26 15 0 11 89 56 30
5 Everton 26 12 4 10 49 49 28
6 Wolverhampton Wanderers 26 11 4 11 59 46 26
7 Burnley 26 11 4 11 49 45 26
8 Notts County 26 11 4 11 55 51 26
9 Blackburn Rovers 26 10 6 10 58 65 26
10 Derby County 26 10 4 12 46 52 24
11 Accrington 26 8 4 14 40 78 20
12 West Bromwich Albion 26 6 6 14 51 58 18
13 Stoke 26 5 4 17 38 61 14
14 Darwen 26 4 3 19 38 112 11

At the Football League’s AGM the bottom four had to apply for re-election to the First Division. According to Tottenham’s “precedent”, all of these clubs should have just retained their place in the newly formed First Division. However, Darwen were unsuccessful and played the 1892-93 season in Division Two whilst the other three clubs played in the First Division.

Not looking too good for Tottenham.

The next time we see an expansion of the First Division is 1898. By then the Second Division had been also been expanded to 16 clubs. This was supposed to have happened in 1893 but it was something of a messy affair.

This is how the two tables looked at the end of the 1897-98 season.

Football League Division One final table 1897-98

Pos Team P W D L F A Pts
1 Sheffield United 30 17 8 5 56 31 42
2 Sunderland 30 16 5 9 43 30 37
3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 30 14 7 9 57 41 35
4 Everton 30 13 9 8 48 39 35
5 The Wednesday 30 15 3 12 51 42 33
6 Aston Villa 30 14 5 11 61 51 33
7 West Bromwich Albion 30 11 10 9 44 45 32
8 Nottingham Forest 30 11 9 10 47 49 31
9 Liverpool 30 11 6 13 48 45 28
10 Derby County 30 11 6 13 57 61 28
11 Bolton Wanderers 30 11 4 15 28 41 26
12 Preston North End 30 8 8 14 35 43 24
13 Notts County 30 8 8 14 36 46 24
14 Bury 30 8 8 14 39 51 24
15 Blackburn Rovers 30 7 10 13 39 54 24
16 Stoke 30 8 8 14 35 55 24

Football League Division Two final table 1897-98

Pos Team P W D L F A Pts
1 Burnley 30 20 8 2 80 24 48
2 Newcastle United 30 21 3 6 64 32 45
3 Manchester City 30 15 9 6 66 36 39
4 Newton Heath 30 16 6 8 64 35 38
5 Woolwich Arsenal 30 16 5 9 69 49 37
6 Small Heath 30 16 4 10 58 50 36
7 Leicester Fosse 30 13 7 10 46 35 33
8 Luton Town 30 13 4 13 68 50 30
9 Gainsborough Trinity 30 12 6 12 50 54 30
10 Walsall 30 12 5 13 58 58 29
11 Blackpool 30 10 5 15 49 61 25
12 Grimsby Town 30 10 4 16 52 62 24
13 Burton Swifts 30 8 5 17 38 69 21
14 Lincoln City 30 6 5 19 43 82 17
15 Darwen 30 6 2 22 31 76 14
16 Loughborough 30 6 2 22 24 87 14

At the Football League AGM on 20 May 1898, a number of different options on how to increase the size of the League were debated. Woolwich Arsenal proposed that the First Division should comprise 16 teams, and the Second Division should be split into two regional divisions (North and South) of 16 teams each. This was obviously to reduce their travelling expenses and generate bigger crowds which were more likely to attend games between local teams. However, a simple increase of both divisions by two teams was agreed.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 21 May 1898

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 21 May 1898 (click to read full article)

Now this is really confusing as promotion and relegation was decided by a series of play-offs known as Test Matches. The results of the Test Matches meant that Stoke retained their place in the First Division and Burnley were promoted. This was the last season that Test Matches were played, mainly due to the belief that Stoke and Burnley had taken it easy in their Test Match knowing that a 0-0 draw would suit both teams.

A vote was taken to decide which teams formed the First Division. Those in the mix were: Newcastle, Blackburn, Small Heath (Birmingham), Arsenal, Manchester City and Newton Heath (Manchester United). What is notable here is that Blackburn are included in the vote. They had finished above Stoke in the First Division and must surely have been, according to Tottenham’s “precedent” claim, entitled to retain their place in the top flight and not have to subject to a vote by their peers.

So, now we’ve had three expansions to the size of the top tier and none of them have been the same. It’s a bit hard to refer to a precedent when there is no commonality between the methods.

Let’s move on to the next one. In the summer of 1905, it was agreed to increase the size of Division One and Division Two to twenty teams. This is how the tables looked at the end of the 1904-05 season.

Football League Division One final table 1904-05

Pos Team P W D L F A Pts
1 Newcastle United 34 23 2 9 72 33 48
2 Everton 34 21 5 8 63 36 47
3 Manchester City 34 20 6 8 66 37 46
4 Aston Villa 34 19 4 11 63 43 42
5 Sunderland 34 16 8 10 60 44 40
6 Sheffield United 34 19 2 13 64 56 40
7 Birmingham 34 17 5 12 54 38 39
8 Preston North End 34 13 10 11 42 37 36
9 The Wednesday 34 14 5 15 61 57 33
10 Woolwich Arsenal 34 12 9 13 36 40 33
11 Derby County 34 12 8 14 37 48 32
12 Stoke 34 13 4 17 40 58 30
13 Blackburn Rovers 34 11 5 18 40 51 27
14 Wolverhampton Wanderers 34 11 4 19 47 73 26
15 Middlesbrough 34 9 8 17 36 56 26
16 Nottingham Forest 34 9 7 18 40 61 25
17 Bury 34 10 4 20 47 67 24
18 Notts County 34 5 8 21 36 69 18

Football League Division Two final table 1904-05

Pos Team P W D L F A Pts
1 Liverpool 34 27 4 3 93 25 58
2 Bolton Wanderers 34 27 2 5 87 32 56
3 Manchester United 34 24 5 5 81 30 53
4 Bristol City 34 19 4 11 66 45 42
5 Chesterfield 34 14 11 9 44 35 39
6 Gainsborough Trinity 34 14 8 12 61 58 36
7 Barnsley 34 14 5 15 38 56 33
8 Bradford City 34 12 8 14 45 49 32
9 Lincoln City 34 12 7 15 42 40 31
10 West Bromwich Albion 34 13 4 17 56 48 30
11 Burnley 34 12 6 16 43 52 30
12 Glossop North End 34 10 10 14 37 46 30
13 Grimsby Town 34 11 8 15 33 46 30
14 Leicester Fosse 34 11 7 16 40 55 29
15 Blackpool 34 9 10 15 36 48 28
16 Port Vale 34 10 7 17 47 72 27
17 Burton United 34 8 4 22 30 84 20
18 Doncaster Rovers 34 3 2 29 23 81 8

By now, automatic promotion and relegation was the norm. The bottom two teams in Division One and the top two teams in Division Two exchanged places at the end of each season.

So, what happened at the Football League’s AGM on 29 May 1905? The Daily Express gives a good account of proceedings.

Daily Express 30 May 1905

Daily Express 30 May 1905

Well, well, well. It looks like Liverpool and Bolton were automatically promoted from Division Two (just like Derby and Preston in 1919) whilst Bury and Notts County were subject to a vote along with other clubs (just like Chelsea and Tottenham in 1919). And look at who else was in the pot – West Bromwich Albion who finished way down in tenth in Division Two.

So, it seems that in 1919 the Football League was following the precedent set in 1905 for the expansion of its two divisions: automatically promoting the top two teams in Division Two, holding a vote to elect the other two teams which included the bottom two teams of Division One as well as any other club that wished to be considered, irrespective of their league position.

That pretty much puts to bed all of the scurrilous rumours, myths and plain untruths about Arsenal’s election to the top flight in 1919. Tottenham fans, let it go. Historians, do some proper research and report the facts.

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The books…

Woolwich A and Crowd

15 thoughts on “Arsenal’s 1919 election – Tottenham’s Final Argument Mythbusted

  1. Jim.S on 5 August 2016 at 10:51 am said:

    We all know which direction each club is heading. I firmly believe tottenham are a better run club with a clear vision and structure to surpass us. We didn’t even attempt to chase Leicester. What will happen if wenger goes? Transition. If he stays, more of the same. I’m scared for our future. Can we say the same for spurs?

  2. European trophy shadow…? Well?

    Just on a purely statistical note: up until THFC very nearly went under, thanks to Mr Scholar, they had won approximately the same number of trophies as ArseAnal and United (including 3bona visa European recognised by UEFA trophies to Arsenal’s NONE) – hardly a forever of being in your scummy shadow, really. Perhaps you could do some research in future before blathering BS

  3. LoL
    Always in shadow blah blah blah… except European trophy shadow. Of course. Because, see, some folk believe the real mark of a big club is European trophies. So just how many bona fide recognised by UEFA trophies have ArseAnal won? I’ll give you a clue – it’s less than two

    Oh, and your blah blah blah BS argument, attempting to exculpate ArseAnal from being the vile cheating bullying bribing club we all know them to be, does it take into account the clubs in the second division who also didn’t earn promotion but did finish above ArseAnal – and yet were not promoted?

    Vile, horrible club of bullies, criminals and perverts

  4. Ben Lyon on 4 August 2016 at 10:42 pm said:

    Only one set of fans unhappy year after year in north London and it isn’t Spurs. No one hates Arsenal more than their own fans if you listen to them every summer.

  5. His history is completely wrong and made up

  6. Mark on 4 August 2016 at 7:27 pm said:

    You seriously need to get out more. Why not work out where Arsenal play and go and watch them.

  7. Thenry on 4 August 2016 at 7:24 pm said:

    Spuds are a sad club they have spent their entire history in our shadow
    It’s only the media and their deluded fans that think they are a big club
    We beat them on all counts trophies money fan base and prestige
    They will always be the little club from Edmonton
    COYG

  8. Kropotkin on 4 August 2016 at 7:13 pm said:

    Me thinks he doth protest too much…………………

  9. BazSpur on 4 August 2016 at 6:59 pm said:

    Squatters.

  10. TinyTotts on 4 August 2016 at 6:51 pm said:

    You can expect the usual saddos from N17 to jump on here and talk kak now. Bottom line, they are an embarrassment in comparison. No title in 55 years, no FA Cup in 25 years, and all they have to cling on to is call Arsenal ‘Woolwich’! LMFAO! Finishing 3rd last year was their highest league position in half a century. No wonder they’re miserable and hate themselves, yet still think they’re a big club! They are a gift that keeps on giving. Europa Cup awaits for them again next season.

    • Judging by BazSpur’s comment at 6:59pm, you are bang on the money,

      • Mick on 4 August 2016 at 7:55 pm said:

        Yawn

      • Tiny brain, sorry..Totts,

        “Finishing 3rd last year was their highest league position in half a century….”

        You may want to check your facts there pal. Admittedly it’s not anything to shout about but Spurs finished third in 1990. To save you having to get your abacus out that’s 26 years.

        Check your facts before you pollute the web with your drivel? Or maybe you did but the maths just proved too difficult for you.

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