June 3, 1891
To those interested in the game of football and our footballers especially, whose exertions – though last Saturday scarcely as we should have wished them to have been – during the season that has just closed, have I believe been of such a character as must necessarily tend to vindicate the integrity of a game which, played as they have played it, is a truly manly and heath’ful pastime. A few instances as to the extent of professionalism in football may not be considered out of place.
The championship of the English League, which some enthusiasts maintain to be equivalent to the championship of the world, as well as the Liverpool District Cup, has been won by the Everton Club (Liverpool), which club also had the honour of having four players represented in the last international match against Scotland. They, beyond any other football club in existence, afford us an example of football professionalism as a grand playing concern. The treasurer’s statement for the past season shows that the club is an organisation having an income of considerably over £8,000 and holding a balance on hand of over £1,800.
The high prices given for different players in the course of last season were sufficient to excite the envy of a good few of our big English Clubs, but notwithstanding that the last year’s balance of £400 has this year been augmented to £1,800. The gate receipts alone amounted to over £8,000, which shows what a great power the reputation a first-class team like Everton exercises on the public pocket. The chairman, who presided on the occasion of presenting the two cups to the club, remarked that no further back than eight years ago a “gate” of a pound to thirty shillings was considered good; nowadays, however, unless the takings exceed several hundreds of pounds it is thought nothing remarkable.
Among the items of expenditure are these two: – Players’ wages, £2,848 11s. 4d.; and advances to players, £318. After close upon £3,000 had been paid to players for their services during the season, it might well be supposed that no further temptation would be needed to persuade the team to continue such a profitable connection, and it would appear that the committee intended this advance of £318 from their (the players’ own) next season’s wages as a “Queen’s shilling” or some sort of blind. But it gives one some idea of the probable rush there would be if some of these players choose to put themselves up for auction.
Alex Lockhead, the Scotch half-back, has had £130 paid down to him, while an English back has had £50. Only a club like Everton could expend money so lavishly upon its players, for not only do they pay these various sums to different players, and are ever ready to put in high bids for promising players throughout the country, but the committee will pay until the next season opens in September a sum of £70 to £80 a week as wages to players regardless of the fact that most of them are at the same time following their trade and earning good money at it.
No doubt the wages of the Everton team are exceptionally good and this no doubt accounts for the high position it holds in the football world. A remark made by Mr. John Houlding, who presided at the annual meeting of the club, is very significant. He said, in complimenting the committee on the knowledge they had displayed of the game itself and of players, that “if a good player were to be had they would capture him, and when they had him it was their duty to keep him.” This is indeed the essence of successful professionalism among football clubs.
We native of Scotland are blamed, perhaps wrongfully. For being terribly conceited, but our pride is very pardonable, when we lay hold upon the first part of Mr. Houlding’s remark, and hazard the opinion that there must be a desperate number of “good” players in Scotland, for all the year round the English clubs make it their happy hunting-ground. The methods used by the “spies” employed are sometimes very questionable and more than one “captive” from the direction of Glasgow has been reported to have shed tears of repentance, and shame perhaps, at having sold himself to the Philistines. However, there are few who are themselves worthy enough to cast a stone at these erring ones, for a bait of £100 to £150 or £200 paid cash down, besides a guaranteed wage of £2 a-week, is sufficient I fear to corrupt the morals of the most ardent and patriotic footballers amongst us.
Altogether twenty-six players have engaged themselves to play for Everton next season. From communication with the secretary (Mr. Richard Molyneux, who himself I may say gets paid a salary of £144), I learn that of the twenty-six players engaged sixteen belong to Scotland, David Jardine and Jack Angus are in the choice of three goalkeepers; Dan Doyle and Duncan McLean of four backs; Bob Kelso, Alex Lockhead, Dan Kirkwood and William Campbell of seven half-backs, and Alex Latta, Alex Brady, Thomas Wyllie, Patrick Gordon, Sam Thomson, James McMillan, Jack Elliott, and Hope Robertson of twelve forwards.
Of these Kelso and Robertson are new players to Everton, the former being bought up from the stock of the Preston North End and the latter out of the Wolverhampton Wanderers. If things go on as they are doing, the interest taken in the game will be of an entirely different order to what it has been in the past – it will be simply a matter of the power of the purse that will decide the League Championship or any other championship.
However, this comparatively modern development in football opens up a new and lucrative field of employment, of not for the masses, at any rate for the classes, where the difficulty of finding a profitable occupation for their children is perhaps greater. Parents will be forced to admit, when they come to solve the question, what shall we do with our boys? that a player-ship in a rich league football club must be a better-endowed post than a fellowship at Oxford or Cambridge, and “brawn” (or rather oat-meal, in the present state of things) in many money market must be valued at a higher rate than brains.
While Everton presents such a bright picture of prosperity and wealth, some other clubs have adopted professionalism and have as a consequence been in deep water ever since. The Bootle Football Club had to pay over £300 from last season’s drawings to pay off old liabilities, which included £86 due to players as wages. The financial condition of the club has greatly improved and they managed to pay their professionals their full wages up to the amount of £737, but they ultimately left themselves losers by a few pounds. Although the Accrington F.C. have an adverse balance of £250, they are on the look-out for new players. The deficiency and whatever it may cost to secure good men is guaranteed by a number of gentlemen. This club, whatever financial difficulties it may be in, has always fulfilled its engagements with its professionals and made sure that they, the players, would not be creditors.
Last season the West Bromwich Albion began with a deficiency of £200, which has now increased to £400 and, at a meeting called for the purpose two weeks ago, the club was formed into a Limited Company, with a capital of £1,500 in 1,500 shares of £1 each, and with power to pay a dividend of 5 per cent. per annum. The Mayor, who presided at the meeting, remarked that the club catered for the public, and it was only fair that the responsibilities should be divided as much as possible. The Preston North End, Burnley, and Accrington have also a similar scheme of “floating” on foot.
Although professionalism has been legalised in the North of England for some years past, it has never been properly acknowledged by the southerners. The London Football Association, which has all along boasted of its “pure and unadulterated amateurism,” has just lately been thrown into a state of confusion by the Woolwich Arsenal Club giving intimation to adopt professional principles next season. The club is the only one of the Association entirely composed of workmen. In the outcry some are for boycotting the Arsenal, and refusing to play matches with any other than amateurs. One of the “spouters” declared that “the prosperity of professional football meant ignominy and eventual extinction.”
Perhaps so, perhaps not; I consider it an evil which must be endured. Any thought of universal amateurism can scarcely be entertained, when at present professional football receives such a large share of popularity. There is hidden professionalism and open professionalism and many are the clubs that are hypocritical in their professed allegiance to amateurism. At any rate, no one has any reason to disrespect a professional footballer, for he does not stoop any lower than does a professional cricketer.
(Source: Forres Elgin and Nairn Gazette: June 3, 1891; signed A.L.)