By Tony Attwood
The closure of the Manor Ground in 1895 because of crowd trouble has been covered in several articles on this site. This piece attempts to bring together the main information we have. Much of the information here is taken from The Crowd At Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews which is available from ourselves (see below).
Woolwich Arsenal were not only the first southern league club (ie a league club from the south – the Southern League had other connections with Woolwich Arsenal) when they joined in 1893, they were the first League club in English football to have their ground closed – in 1895. The ground was closed for 6 weeks, when the crowd turned on the referee after a fractious game against Burton Wanderers on 26th January 1895.
The original sentence proposed for Arsenal, was that their ground would have been closed for the rest of the 1894/95 season. However, the “compromise” of a mere 6 weeks suspension was agreed upon by the FA.
As Mark points out in his book, An almost identical episode of ref bashing at Wolverhampton Wanderers next season in October 1895 led to their ground being closed but for only 2 weeks. At least one non-local reporter put the disparity in the harshness of the sentences from the FA, down to Arsenal’s role as the pre-eminent southern professional team.
There were also some altercations with Tottenham, the most serious being when the Tottenham goalkeeper (ex-Woolwich Arsenal) punched a fan who was subjecting him to “foul and insulting language” from behind the goal.
Arsenal played one more home game (against Rotherham Town on 9 February 1895) after the Burton Wanderers match, before the punishment started. This game was played in front of a crowd of 3000; this low crowd was explained by this being a mid-week match played in the afternoon when most men were working in the armaments factories. The Burton game itself, at which there had been the trouble, had a crowd of 7,000.
- February 23 1895: Arsenal v Burton Swifts (won 3-0) 5.000. Played at New Brompton
- March 9 1895: Arsenal v Leicester Fosse (drew 3-3) 3,000. Played at Leyton.
|3||Newton Heath (Man U)||30||15||8||7||78||44||38|
|14||Walsall Town Swifts*||30||10||0||20||47||92||20|
|15||Burslem Port Vale||30||7||4||19||39||77||18|
* Bury promoted after play offs, Walsall left league at the end of the season
Clearly the journeys across London and out were difficult for Arsenal, but then so was the journey in for the clubs that had to make it to the border of London and Kent.