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Ken Aston Referee Society ~ Football Encyclopedia Bible
Encyclopedia of British Football
~ Crowd Trouble : 1870-1930 ~
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Source - References
Journalists wrote about accounts of football hooliganism as soon as the game became a spectator sport. Games involving two teams from the same town or city often resulted in violent play. Archie Hunter, who played for Aston Villa, wrote about the crowd disturbances that took place when his club won the Birmingham Challenge Cup in 1880. Hunter wrote that "hats, sticks and umbrellas were flying in all directions, almost darkening the air."

In November 1888, during the first season of the Football League the Sporting Chronicle described how the Everton player, Alec Dick "struck another in the back in a piece of ruffianism". The victim of the assault, Albert Moore, the Notts County, inside-right, was not seriously injured. The newspaper went on to report: "One or two of the Everton team played very hard on their opponents, and hoots and groans were frequent during the match. When the teams left the field a rush was made for the Everton men, who had raised the ire of the spectators, and sticks were used. Dick was singled out, and was struck over the head with a heavy stick, the cowardly fellow was dealt the blow inflicting a severe wound on the side of the Everton man's head."

The Sporting Chronicle added: "Our own correspondent adds that Dick played anything but a gentlemanly game, while his language was coarse; but even these defects did not merit such cowardly and condign punishment as was administered at Trent Bridge". As a result of the incident Alec Dick was suspended by the authorities for the rest of the season.

William McGregor, the founder of the Football League, argued that: "Many of the fiascos I have seen have been caused by sheer pressure of numbers. Those who are well placed are only anxious to see the game go on, but those who cannot command a good view are apt to push and struggle in the hope that possibly their situation may be improved thereby. Realizing that they cannot see where they are, the reason that any change in position cannot be for the worse. That has been the cause of practically all the fiascos I have noted in connection with football. There has always been a keen desire to see, and it was because they could not see that those who were responsible for the trouble got out of hand."

In 1895 Arsenal had their ground, Manor Park, closed because of crowd trouble in a game against Bolton Wanderers. This is believed to be the first time football hooliganism caused a ground to be closed.

In April 1895 Bolton Wanderers played an away game against Bury in the Lancashire Senior Cup. After James Turner made a strong tackle against an opponent the home crowd rushed on the field and attacked him and the referee was forced to abandon the game.

Crowd trouble often took place after players had been involved in violent incidents on the pitch. In one game against Fulham, in 1898, the Chelsea Mail reported that after a goal scored by Roderick McEachrane of West Ham United was disallowed, the referee "informed a section of the spectators that unless their remarks were less personal they would be removed" from the ground.

There was also trouble after the 1901 FA Cup Final between Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. As Ernest Needham, the Sheffield captain left the field he was punched in the face by a Tottenham supporter. Graham Phythian, the author of Colossus: The True Story of William Foulke, suggested: "Perhaps he chose Needham because of the half-back's small stature. If it were so, it were a grievous fault. Nobody present - with the single obvious exception - could have been a more redoubtable opponent in such a confrontation than hard-as-nails Needham. Normally the soul of diplomacy, the United captain retaliated with a left-right combination that wouldn't have disgraced Bob Fitzsimmons. At this point the spectator, concluding it might be a good idea to make himself scarce, turned and ran - into the arms of a couple of policemen."

James Catton, a football journalist who worked for the Athletic News, reported that a game between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur on 7th March, 1903, caused serious crowd trouble: "The crowd was very large, and at half-time they took possession of the arena. There were seats inside the fence, within a few yards of the touch-lines, and the people who were thus accommodated abused their position and privilege by swarming on to the turf at the interval. Of course, other folk followed, and as it was impossible to remove them the referee, John T. Howcroft, of Bolton, had no option. He declared the match abandoned. Then commenced such a hurly-burly that many people, self included, remained prisoners on the old stand-for there were the spectators on the ground and a mob which was said to be violent in front of the stand. The turbulent section was subdued by the police."

William McGregor later commented: "Tottenham were ordered to pay to the Football Association the sum of 350 out of their share of the gate receipts, the amount to be distributed by the Association amongst the London charities - that was a decision which, generally speaking, was well received."

Source - References

(1) The Sporting Chronicle (19th November, 1888)

In the progress of the game Dick of Everton, struck A. E. Moore in the back, a piece of ruffianism which produced a lively verbal encounter. One or two of the Everton team played very hard on their opponents, and hoots and groans were frequent during the match. When the teams left the field a rush was made for the Everton men, who had raised the ire of the spectators, and sticks were used. Dick was singled out, and was struck over the head with a heavy stick, the cowardly fellow was dealt the blow inflicting a severe wound on the side of the Everton man's head. The footballers got separated in the excited crowd, but sturdy Holland and Frank Sugg forced their way to the rescue, and Sugg succeeded in gripping the man who struck Dick. He, however, escaped, though constables arrived quickly. Sugg, Holland, and one or two others protected Dick to the pavilion, where his injuries were attended to. This drastic aspect of football is new to Nottingham, and it is a great pity the perpetrators of this cowardly outrage were not secured and handed over to the police. This we are sure will be the feeling of all respectable people who have the interests of football, of the Notts club, and of the reputation of the town at heart.

Our own correspondent adds that Dick played anything but a gentlemanly game, while his language was coarse; but even these defects did not merit such cowardly and condign punishment as was administered at Trent Bridge by Nottingham "lambs" under mob law.

(2) William McGregor, Football Fiascos (1906)

Many of the fiascos I have seen have been caused by sheer pressure of numbers. Those who are well placed are only anxious to see the game go on, but those who cannot command a good view are apt to push and struggle in the hope that possibly their situation may be improved thereby. Realizing that they cannot see where they are, the reason that any change in position cannot be for the worse. That has been the cause of practically all the fiascos I have noted in connection with football. There has always been a keen desire to see, and it was because they could not see that those who were responsible for the trouble got out of hand.

(3) John Lewis, The Much Abused Referee (1906)

For myself, I would take no objection to hooting or groaning by the spectators at decisions with which they disagree. The referee should remember that football is a game that warms the blood of player and looker-on alike, and that unless they can give free vent to their delight or anger, as the case may be, the great crowds we now witness will dwindle rapidly away.

(4) J. A. H. Catton, The Story of Association Football (1926)

Having seen nearly 200 Association Cup-ties spread over many years, it is evident that only odd games which stand out in memory can be recalled. Another Tottenham match must, however, be mentioned, for that also took place in February, when Aston Villa were called to White Hart-lane twenty years ago.

The crowd was very large, and at half-time they took possession of the arena. There were seats inside the fence, within a few yards of the touch-lines, and the people who were thus accommodated abused their position and privilege by swarming on to the turf at the interval.

Of course, other folk followed, and as it was impossible to remove them the referee, John T. Howcroft, of Bolton, had no option. He declared the match abandoned.

Then commenced such a hurly-burly that many people, self included, remained prisoners on the old stand-for there were the spectators on the ground and a mob which was said to be violent in front of the stand. The turbulent section was subdued by the police.

It was impossible to get out of the place by the customary exits, but a good friend-I think it was John Over, the venerable grounds man, who used to prepare The Oval for The Wanderers, the classic team of the early "seventies"- led me across the pitch, opened a private gate, and put me on the road to Park Station, on the Great Eastern line, as White Hart-lane, Bruce Grove, and even South Tottenham would have been impossible.

Tottenham had to give their "gate" to charitable institutions, to pay a fine of 200 or 300, and to enclose their playing pitch with iron rails so that no spectators could be accommodated inside and none could gain access by climbing over. This was a severe punishment.

(5) Graham Phythian, Colossus: The True Story of William Foulke (2005)

As the teams made their way from the pitch, a Southampton fan decided to vent his frustration on Needham, hitting the Sheffielder in the face. Perhaps he chose Needham because of the half-back's small stature. If it were so, it were a grievous fault. Nobody present - with the single obvious exception - could have been a more redoubtable opponent in such a confrontation than hard-as-nails Needham. Normally the soul of diplomacy, the United captain retaliated with a left-right combination that wouldn't have disgraced Bob Fitzsimmons. At this point the spectator, concluding it might be a good idea to make himself scarce, turned and ran - into the arms of a couple of policemen. The next day back in Sheffield there was a rumor that it was Foulke who had hit back. But as the Monday's Sheffield Telegraph wryly commented: "The assailant may be glad it was only Needham."

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