Gibson Poole was born in 1860. He joined the British Army and
reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Poole was active in
politics and was a leading figure in the Conservative Party in
Middlesbrough. In 1907 he was elected as mayor of the city.
Poole was also chairman of the local football team Middlesbrough.
In February, 1905, the club, who were in danger of being
relegated from the First Division, purchased Alf Common from
Sunderland for a record breaking fee of £1,000. One journalist
described the transfer of Common as "flesh and blood for sale".
Another sports writer wrote: "We are tempted to wonder whether
Association football players will eventually rival thoroughbred
yearling racehorses in the market."
The transfer of Alf Common had the desired impact on the
fortunes of the club. On 25th February, Common scored the only
goal of the game against Sheffield United. It was
Middlesbrough's first away victory for over two years. Common
helped to save Middlesbrough from relegation and over the next
five years he scored 58 goals in 168 games.
Poole was criticized for buying success and in January 1908, the
Football League imposed a £350 limit on the cost of players. The
Football Association also carried out an investigation of the
club and uncovered book-keeping irregularities including the
chairman keeping gate receipts and owing the club money. As Nick
Varley points out in his book Golden Boy: "In the manner of
these things down the ages, it was settled quietly and all but
forgotten until four years later when allegations were made that
Boro and Newcastle fixed a match to give the Geordies, preparing
for a Cup final, an easy ride. The allegations were not proved,
but hardly helped Boro's tarnished image."
On 27th June, 1910, he appointed Andy Walker as manager of the
club. Soon after his appointment, Walker was accused of
illegally trying to sign one of his former Airdrie players.
Walker was found guilty and banned for four weeks, while the
club were fined £100 for the offence.
Poole wanted desperately to be the city's member of parliament.
However, at that time, the country had a very popular Liberal
Party government. Working closely with David Lloyd George, his
radical Chancellor of the Exchequer, Herbert Asquith introduced
a whole series of reforms including the Old Age Pensions Act and
the People's Budget that resulted to a conflict with the House
The Conservatives, who had a large majority in the Lords,
objected to this attempt to redistribute wealth, and made it
clear that they intended to block these proposals. David Lloyd
George reacted by touring the country making speeches in
working-class areas on behalf of the budget and portraying the
nobility as men who were using their privileged position to stop
the poor from receiving their old age pensions. After a long
struggle with the Lords Herbert Asquith and the Liberal
government finally got his budget through parliament.
A General Election was called to take place on 5th December,
1910. Poole was to be the Conservative Party candidate for
Middlesbrough in the election. It seemed that Poole was bound to
lose as the Tories were seen to be trying to halt the
redistribution of wealth that was taking place. Poole became
convinced that his best chance of victory would be if
Middlesbrough beat Sunderland, the club's bitter rivals, in the
Football League game that took place on 3rd December 1910.
On the day of the match, Andy Walker offered Charlie Thomson,
the captain of Sunderland, £10 for him and plus £2 for each of
the players as long as Middlesbrough won the game. Thompson
refused to take the money and reported the conversation to
Sunderland's trainer, Billy Williams. Middlesbrough won the game
1-0. However, this result did not have the desired political
impact and Poole lost the election by 3,000 votes.
Billy Williams told Fred Taylor, the chairman of Sunderland,
what had happened. The matter was reported to the Football
League. On the 16th January 1911, Poole and Andy Walker were
suspended from football for life. Middlesbrough supporters
believed that Walker was only following orders and a 12,500
people signed a petition to the Football Association to
reconsider his ban. They refused to do this and Walker was
forced out of his profession.
Thomas Gibson Poole died in 1937.
(1) Sunderland: The Official History (1999)
By 3rd December 1910 we were flying in the Football League and clear
favorites for the title. Sunderland took a fourteen game unbeaten run
to Ayresome Park, and with Boro' struggling at the wrong end of the
table, it was obvious to all that a Sunderland victory was on the cards.
The Middlesbrough Chairman, Lieutenant Colonel Poole, had different
ideas. He was running for parliamentary elections on the Monday and
believed that his candidature and votes would be boosted if his side
could beat Sunderland.
(2) Nick Varley, Golden Boy (1997)
First there was the outcry which greeted the signing of Alf Common in
1905, not because of his Freddie Mercury moustache, but because the
record fee broke the £1000 barrier. In those days buying your way out of
trouble was just not the done thing and relegation-threatened Boro,
second from bottom and two years without an away win, as well as sellers
Sunderland, were pilloried....
Then there was the sterling example set by chairman Lieutenant-Colonel
Gibson Poole, the man who bought Common. After another transfer swoop
the following season, for the acclaimed England international Steve
Bloomer, rumors began to circulate that a number of other clubs had
helped Boro, struggling again, with their purchases because they all
wanted to see Bury go down. Both league and FA inquiries uncovered
book-keeping irregularities including the chairman keeping gate receipts
and owing the club money. In the manner of these things down the ages,
it was settled quietly and all but forgotten until four years later when
allegations were made that Boro and Newcastle fixed a match to give the
Geordies, preparing for a Cup final, an easy ride. The allegations were
not proved, but hardly helped Boro's tarnished image.
The goals-for-votes scandal cemented Boro's reputation for rogue
finances. By 1910, the Lieutenant-Colonel was trying to move from
football into politics by standing as a Conservative in the General
Election. With the Liberals favorites to win, he needed all the help he
could get - for example, his team beating Sunderland two days before
polling. Some of the Boro players had spoken during the campaign on
behalf of their chairman, while the Liberals were forecasting, rather
disloyally, a Wearside win.
On match day, manager Andy Walker decided to do his bit and approached
the Sunderland captain with an offer of £10 for him plus £2 for each of
his players as long as there was a home victory. The skipper told his
trainer, who told the Sunderland chairman, who told the FA and, although
Boro won the game 1-0 through entirely fair means, the club was in dire
trouble. Weeks earlier it had been fined £100 and Walker banned for a
month after he made an illegal approach to a Scottish player. It had
been their final chance and the new offence meant Poole, who lost the
election, and Walker were banned for life. The remaining directors were
warned that if there was any more rule-breaking Boro would be banned
from the Football League.