The Association Football Crisis by H Hughes- Onslow

This remarkable (to our eyes) article by Hughes-Onslow was published in the Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes in 1907. The social context can be determined by the subjects of some of the other articles in the magazine:  A Curious Hound-breeding Experiment, Capturing Wild Elephants in Mysore, Hints on Cycling to Hounds, Deer-Taking at Eridge Park...

It is worth noting also that the author of the article was honorary chairman of the Amateur Football Association, and that at the time he was writing the AFA were at loggerheads with the FA over the status of amateur clubs. 

Hughes-Onslow says that the Association game has gone bad. The reasons for this are clear to him (and one suspects that his readers by and large agreed). Uneducated working men were playing the game. Worse than that, they were governing it. They lacked the moral fibre to maintain high standards of fair play and gentlemanly conduct. This situation was further compounded by the fact that there were paid professionals and therefore a win at all costs ethos which negated whatever sense of fair play they may have possessed.
Men of his social class, Hughes-Onslow asserts:
 do not care to engage in a game in which it is commonly necessary for the referee to interfere on the ground of deliberate foul play.

Hughes-Onslow then goes on to use the penalty kick as an example of all that is wrong with the modern game. He illustrates his case with the myth making story of the Corinthian FC's refusal to score from or save penalties. That this was common practice is apocryphal, neither B.O Corbett or Norman Creek make reference to this being usual in their histories of Corinthian. In a 1907 tour match against Western Province in South Africa  there was an incidence of Corinth (in the person of their skipper and goalkeeper T.S Rowlandson) deliberately missing a harshly awarded spot kick. The match ended in a rare defeat for Corinthians. The records show that they regularly scored penalties.
Another instance of a penalty being deliberately missed that I have come across was by the great Vivian
Woodward playing for England (Amateur) v  France. Woodward thought the referee had been harsh and England were already about 10-0 up if memory serves me correctly.
Anyway,back to...

The Association Football Crisis

By H. Hughes-Onslow

Of all the various forms of sport actively practised by readers of this magazine, I suppose that the game of football in any form can hardly be described as the most popular, and this for a variety of reasons, the principal of which is no doubt that the average player who does not make the game the most serious business of his life begins to deteriorate more or less rapidly at the age of thirty at latest, and often, indeed, finds it necessary to retire from active participation in the game at a much earlier age. The opportunities peculiar to football, and necessarily ineradicable from it, of foul play and personal violence consequent upon loss of temper — opportunities of which no counterpart occurs in such games as cricket and golf, where the element of frequent corporal collision is absent — undoubtedly tend to drive away such athletes as can afford to take their exercise in hunting and other more expensive forms, not at all because they are afraid of sustaining any bodily injury, but because they disdain to retaliate in breach of the rules and spirit of the game, and do not care to engage in a game in which it is commonly necessary for the referee to interfere on the ground of deliberate foul play. A bad-tempered or unscrupulous opponent at cricket is undeniably a nuisance, but some other expression must be found to describe what he can be on the football field. Football also demands for its enjoyment a higher standard of physical condition than any other game played with a ball, except perhaps water polo, and so it comes about that among the more highly-educated classes it is adopted as the principal form of regular exercise by comparatively few, and by those never for many years. Yet I venture to assume that almost every male reader of this magazine has at some time of his life played football sufficiently to accept the proposition that the whole range of sport affords nothing finer than the test of strength, courage, endurance, and, above all, skill, to be encountered in the short hour-and-a-half occupied by a well-contested game. Many of my readers, no doubt, having been educated at one of our principal public schools, belong to the class known, for want of a better term, as "Old Boys," and have experienced the joy of battle in the form of a house-match. Like me, they may have passed the hour of active participation in such delights, but it is the interest of such as these that I desire to enlist in the following remarks. I am about to speak of Association football, and I am aware that a considerable number of my readers who have played only the Rugby game are inclined to take but little interest in the other. To such I appeal as belonging to a body of sportsmen which has throughout the history of their game sternly resisted the evil of professionalism ; and in case it may persuade them to persevere further with the reading of this article, I proceed to publish, without leave, what seemed to me at the time a singularly foolish observation made by an old friend of the football field, who like myself went to Eton in the very early eighties, but afterwards diverged so far from my own humble path as to become captain of the England eleven against Scotland, and the best forward I ever saw. In the course of the journey to play a match in Suffolk last season several of us were discussing the unwelcome fact that a game of Rugby football had been started at Eton to the obvious prejudice of our "Old Boy" club which plays Association, and I, as an official of the club, was endeavouring to find some means of putting a stop to this evil. My colleague sharply checked my admiration of him by " confessing " (as he called it) a furtive affection for the Rugby game, which I willingly concede is quite as much like the Eton game as is the Association game in its present form. As many readers are aware, the present condition of affairs in Association football is far from satisfactory. We are, in fact, if I may be allowed the expression, passing through a grave political crisis the nature of which should, I think, in the interests of both parties to the dispute, be made known as widely as possible. The original cause of the trouble is, of course, the introduction of professionalism ; that is, the sanction given by the Football Association some twenty years ago to the payment of players. The sportsman who is not a football player will probably ask why this should cause any more trouble than it has done at cricket. The answer is, first, that cricket affords practically no opportunity for foul play which cannot easily be checked ; and, secondly, that the vast popularity among the less highly-educated classes of the game of Association football as a spectacle has led to the formation throughout every centre of industry in England of purely professional clubs, whose representatives, imbued with ideas necessarily different from those of the amateur, who plays the game merely for recreation, have by their numbers and persistency absorbed into their own hands practically the whole government of the game. Cricket is saved from a similar fate by circumstances other than those which I have already indicated. For one thing, owing to the heavy expenses involved, it is, at all events, difficult to make even a first-class county club — unless it be in the very front rank — pay its way by means of the "gate" alone, whereas it is comparatively easy to obtain by similar means funds sufficient to keep going as a profit- able concern a football club whose players are exclusively professional. Again, in the case of cricket, every first-class club has at least a substantial number of pure amateurs on its own committee of management, while an amateur captain is in charge of each team in almost every match. If this were so in football the present unhappy condition of affairs could never have arisen, and there is nothing in cricket which in any way corresponds with the professional football club, or with the governing body of the game, composed mainly of the representatives of such clubs. In the football world of to-day there are paid secretaries of clubs and of district associations, paid referees and contributors to the press, and innumerable other less direct methods of making a profit out of football otherwise than by actually playing the game. And it is men who by such means as these find in football a substantial source of income, that most of us amateurs consider unfitted to interfere, as members of the body governing amateurs and professionals alike, in the control of the game which we desire to preserve as a sport. By the rules of the Football Association a professional player is ineligible for a seat on the Codicil. We have heard much of late of the Council's determination to compel the district associations to "fall into line" with regard to the admission of professional clubs to membership ; but we would like to see, in the first place, this plausible policy of conformity applied without distinction to those who make an income out of the game, whether they do so by means of their skill on the field or by other (and not necessarily more honourable) means. At this stage I should like to dispose of two possible misapprehensions. First, whatever may have been the opinion of amateurs with regard to the original introduction of professionalism, the amateur player of to-day has no objection, and throughout the present controversy has been careful to disclaim any, to the professional player, or to playing with or against him, merely because he is paid for his services. Secondly, by foul play I mean something very different from mere rough play. The honest, straightforward charge with the shoulder, with which we were all familiar in our house-match days, although it may conceivably be carried to undesirable extremes, has always been cherished by the genuine amateur ; but the tendency of professional government has been to render it illegal in common with foul play of the kind which I am about to mention. This latter consists almost entirely of tripping, and is, unfortunately, only too easy to practise. A player beaten by an opponent who has got the ball past him and put himself out of reach of a shoulder charge may still make a certainty of bringing the opponent down by means of an obviously hopeless attempt to reach the ball with his foot ; or again, when the beaten player is pursuing an opponent whose speed he can equal but not exceed, the opponent's downfall may easily be effected by (if I may borrow an expression from the race- course) "striking into " his heels in the feigned attempt to pass him on the far side. I have read in the press of an art cultivated by unscrupulous players who are said to be able, while appearing them- selves to be the victims of foul play, nevertheless to inflict a serious bodily injury upon the innocent but apparently aggressive opponent. To the best of my knowledge nothing of the kind has ever existed, and the foul play that has brought about the administrative interference to which amateurs object is designed not to effect bodily injury, but merely to rob an opponent of victory. Foul play of this sort has led to the general result that in most matches between even high -class professional teams the referee's whistle stops the game every two or three minutes; and there is this further development, of which I regret to say many instances occurred in the final tie of the Association Cup last spring, that a beaten player when deprived of the ball will throw himself down and claim a foul against his opponent ; and as a particular result arising out of the same evil I may mention the "penalty-kick," a comparatively modern innovation highly distasteful to amateurs, and quite unnecessary so far as their methods of play are concerned. This penalty, I should perhaps explain, is or may be awarded in every case where the defending side is guilty of intentional foul play within a certain marked area in the neighbourhood of goal, and consists in the right to a shot at goal from a spot marked immediately in front of the goal, no defending player except the goal-keeper being allowed to take any part in the game while the kick is taken. It would no doubt be an excellent thing if the referee had power to award a goal in any case where he is satisfied that an act of foul play has prevented a goal from being scored ; but 1 Of course I do not include "off-side," or " hands " used otherwise than in defence of goal, both of which are generally quite unintentional. the present rule provides a remedy which in extreme cases, such as the use of the hands in front of goal by a player other than the goalkeeper, is obviously inadequate, and in other cases may be quite unnecessarily severe. The attitude of the best class of amateur toward this rule, as also that of the leaders of professionalism towards the amateurs, is neatly illustrated by a couple of events which occurred during the tour of the Corinthians in South Africa during the English summer of 1903. The Corinthians are recruited almost exclusively from Old Boy clubs, and represent all that is best in amateur football. Not unnaturally they were anxious that through- out their tour the game should be played according to their ideas as regards foul play. With a referee of the pronounced professional type it is never long before a penalty-kick is awarded against one side or the other, and it happened that a local referee penalised the Corinthians in this way. The Corinthian captain of that time, a man who has done in a long career at least as much good for amateur football as any other that ever played the game, was fortunately himself in charge of the team and rose to the occasion. In a word, he explained to the opposing captain his opinion that if any member of his side had in the opinion of the referee by means of foul play deliberately prevented his opponents from scoring a goal the penalty ought to be a goal without any uncertainty, and thereupon he ordered his goal-keeper to stand clear of the goal so as to allow the opponents to score the point without opposition. Not long afterwards the converse case arose, a penalty-kick being awarded to the Corinthians for something which, in the opinion of their captain, did not amount to deliberate foul play. He accordingly took the kick himself, and deliberately put the ball off the field as far from the goal as he could. Nothing in my opinion could have been better calculated than this sportsmanlike action to ensure the remainder of the matches throughout the tour being played in the best possible spirit without any attempt at fouls, and I expect most of my readers will approve of the policy ; but if they do they will be in conflict with a large section (not amateur, I need hardly say) of the Council of the Football Association, many of whom were in favour of calling upon the Corinthian captain for an explanation of his reprehensible, and in their view, I suppose, unsportsmanlike, conduct. Upon the death of my late lamented friend and colleague, Arthur Dunn, a competition confined to Old Boy clubs was founded in honour of his memory, and, as may be suppposed, the ties are played off with no less keenness than if they were house matches. The competition is now in its fifth season, and applications to be allowed to join in it are continually coming in from fresh clubs. I suppose I have been present at something like twenty matches played in the competition, and I am glad to say that I never once saw the game stopped for foul play. Our idea is that a player guilty of foul play ought to be regarded in the same light as a man who, when armed with a gun, shoots by accident a fellow- sportsman or by design a fox in a hunting country, and as I have indicated above, the result is entirely satisfactory. From the instances which I have given it will no doubt easily be understood that the breach between the amateur and professional  elements in the game has been gradually widening for many years past, and I can now pass on to the present crisis. By the rules of the Football Association every club must be affiliated to some subsidiary District Association, which manages the affairs of its own district subject to the supreme control of the Football Association. To some extent the jurisdictions of the District Associations overlap each other ; every club affiliated to the London Association, for example, being eligible for membership of the Associations of either Middlesex, Essex, Surrey, or Kent. Some two years ago the council of the London Association, which had previously been confined to amateur clubs, at the dictation of the Football Association proposed to alter their constitution so as to admit to membership the professional clubs — some ten in number — whose headquarters were within the territorial jurisdiction of the London Association. These professional clubs, I may mention, disclaimed from the first any desire to be affiliated, but the proposal was supported by Lord Kinnaird, who is President of the London Association, the Football Association, and also of my club. As President of the Football Association, Lord Kinnaird succeeded another famous Old Etonian, Sir Francis Marindin, who retired in consequence of his objection to the failure of the Council to consider sufficiently the interests of amateurs, and in supporting the proposal Lord Kinnaird stood alone among representative Old Boys. I know of one other Old Boy who professes a similar conviction, but has certainly no claim to represent his club, and, indeed, I should be much interested to learn the name of a single member of that old and famous club who shares his views. Of him I need merely say that, judging only from what I have seen of his contributions to the literature on the subject, I welcome him as one of the most valuable friends of our cause. The Old Boy clubs, the great majority of which belong to the London Association, were as the result of the experience afforded by the history of the Football Association unanimous in opposing the proposal to admit professional clubs to membership of the London Association on the ground that, if admitted, the representatives of professional clubs would, by their persistency and pecuniary interest in the matter, sooner or later secure a controlling majority of seats on the Council ; and the result was that the motion was rejected, not being carried by the necessary two-thirds majority prescribed by the rules. About December 1905 certain officers of the Football Association proposed as a compromise that the London Association should admit to membership professional clubs within the jurisdictions of the Associations of Middlesex and Surrey, and that the two last-named Associations should continue as before to admit only amateurs. This proposal was peremptorily rejected by the Council of the London Association as " unsatisfactory," presumably because they did not wish to lose the subscriptions of the amateur clubs which would be transferred to the other Associations, and the original motion was brought on again at a special general meeting of the London Association on 6th February last. A good deal of canvassing was done by the supporters of the Council, and there is abundant evidence that on their side advantage was freely taken of the fact that, whereas the rules of the Association provide that each senior club should be entitled to send two representative members, and each junior club one such member, to vote at general meetings, the notice convening this meeting invited the clubs to send representatives, ignoring the necessity for such representatives to be members of the clubs whom they might purport to represent. A moment's reflection will show the enormous advantage gained by our opponents who took the view that a vote might be tendered on behalf of a club by a person who was not a member of it. I am aware of an assertion that illegal voting of this kind occurred on both sides, and my answer is that whereas the party to which I belong have in their possession numerous letters indiscriminately soliciting tickets of admission, no one, so far as I know, has ever offered to produce such a document emanating from our side, or suggested a fragment of evidence in support of the charge. Again, the rules of the London Association provide that "no alteration shall be made in the rules . . . unless supported by, at least, two-thirds of those present.'' Each representative as he entered the room was required to state in writing his name and that of the club which he claimed to represent, and he thereupon received a voting-paper with which he could, if he wished, record his vote there and then, without waiting to hear the discussion. Every vote so tendered was accepted and counted, and at the conclusion of the meeting the result was announced by the chairman, Lord Kinnaird, in substance as follows : — 607 voting papers were issued (or in other words, as we think, the number of those present within the meaning of the rule last quoted was 607). Of these, 562 voted, 376 for the motion, and 186 against. Two-thirds of 607 being 404.66, it seemed to us, especially having regard to the fact that all those who left before the poll took place were allowed to vote if they wished, that the motion was lost ; but another view com- mended itself to the chairman. By the ingenious assumption that those who voted before the poll was taken were " present," and that all those who for any reason did not see fit to vote (even though they might have remained in the room till now) were not present, he arrived at the conclusion that the number of those present was 562, and that two-thirds of 562 being 374.66 the motion was accordingly carried with a vote and a fraction to spare. Rather a doubtful short head, I think you will agree ! I have had a good deal to do with both lawyers and sportsmen, and indeed I claim to belong to both classes myself, but I do not hesitate to express the opinion that in order to find an argument in favour of this decision it would be wiser to consult a member of that profession which a friend once described to me as being frequently mentioned in the Gospels, but never, so far as he knew, with any pronounced marks of approval. Immediately upon hearing the chairman's declaration the leaders of the minority demanded a scrutiny of the votes, and according to the report of the meeting which appeared in the Sportsman of the following day the chairman announced that a scrutiny would be held ; but nevertheless all subsequent efforts to obtain from the Council of the London Association any definite promise to hold a scrutiny proved entirely unsuccessful, and on 22nd February the representatives of the dissenting clubs forming the minority held a meeting and appointed a committee to deal with the matter. This committee, on 3rd March, wrote to the Secretary of the Football Association requesting the Council to receive a deputation to discuss, first, the decision of the London Association with regard to the meeting of 6th February ; and secondly, the possibility of forming an Amateur Association to be affiliated to the Football Association. On 22nd March the Secretary replied that, in the opinion of his officers, the first point was entirely a matter for the London Association and not for the Football Association, and that the second point would be considered at a meeting to be held on 2nd April. So far as I know, no such meeting was ever held, nor has the matter ever received any further consideration by the Football Association. About this time a number of the dissentient clubs, who although met on all sides by a blank refusal to consider their grievances were nevertheless actuated by the desire to find a peaceful solution of the difficulty, affiliated themselves to one or other of the still purely amateur Associations of Middlesex and Surrey, so that by merely dropping their subscriptions to the London Association they might still remain duly affiliated to a District Association governed according to their own ideas. Thereupon the officers of the Football Association, with that high courage which disdains to accept any offer of help out of a difficulty, altered their rules so as to prohibit any withdrawal from membership of a District Association, even for the purpose of transfer to another such Association, except by leave of the Football Association. The last door of escape having been in this way closed against them, the dissentient clubs, with the object of discovering some means of securing justice, formed a combination which they called the Amateur Defence Federation, and the committee of this body among other steps took that of recommending certain clubs to abstain from entering for the London Association Cup Competitions. The Council of the Football Association promptly called upon them for an explanation of their conduct, and in reply the committee of the Amateur Defence Federation delivered a written statement setting out in full detail, but without any of the comments which I have made, the bare facts briefly recorded above from December 1905 onwards. On 5th November the Council of the Football Association met to consider the explanation, and without making the smallest attempt to dispute any fact alleged or to answer any argument contained in the statement, after some discussion baldly resolved that it was " unsatisfactory," and without more words called upon all clubs who had joined the Amateur Defence Federation immediately to withdraw therefrom. The principal subject of the discussion which I have mentioned was whether the epithet should be "unjustifiable" or "unsportsmanlike," and no one suggested that the explanation deserved more courteous consideration than this blunt resolution. In my time the Council of the Football Association has stigmatised as " unsportsmanlike" the conduct of an Old Boy club which in a hard frost postponed an Amateur Cup tie overnight without consulting the referee. Unfortunately now the same Council has regarded our conduct as " unsatisfactory," and we are left with the consolation that we have so far escaped the charge of being discourteous. In deference to this last decision of the Council, at a meeting of the Amateur Defence Federation held on 27th November it was resolved that the Federation should be disbanded forthwith, and a Committee was formed to take the necessary steps to call a General Meeting of the Football Association to review the Council's decision of 5th November. This is the position of matters as I write, and it is not for me to attempt to forecast further developments. There are reasons to anticipate that the Council may probably endeavour to find some ground — I cannot think what — for depriving all clubs which joined the Amateur Defence Federation of the right to play against any other club under the control of the Association. One effect of this would be to leave the Corinthians unable to find a team in England fit to play against them, a contingency which I understand even the Council themselves regard in the light of a calamity, and another effect would be to inflict a grave hardship on many provincial clubs by depriving them, for a time at all events, of the possibility of finding any opponents within reach. It has been urged upon me by one of the leaders of the professional party — I presume with the object of persuading my party to submit without question to the wise judgment of the Council — that it would not look well for "amateurs to break off" from the Association and give ground for the comment, just or unjust, that they consider themselves too good to play with the poorer classes. The suggestion that such a comment might be made is only too well founded, and I quote it as a specimen of the methods which are employed against us in this controversy. It can hardly be necessary for me to point out that the amateurs had exhausted every resource to avoid a split with the Association before they formed their Defence Federation, and if there be a split it will come about only through the suspension of the amateurs by the Football Association, upon the head of whose Council the whole blame will rest. To sum up, speaking merely for myself, it seems clear that the amateurs are determined to resist by all legitimate and honourable means that illegal policy of coercion the object of which is to force them ultimately to submit to professional government. Unless I am very much mistaken the only possible solutions are that the Football Association will either abandon that policy or drive the amateurs to form a separate association, and one or other of these alternatives must in my opinion be realised before the beginning of next football season. I trust that in this article, the inevitable length of which I regret, I may have succeeded in explaining the controversy sufficiently to enable any sportsman who may wish to do so to interest himself in the further developments which must now be rapidly approaching.