To the editor of The Athletic News – The Everton Football Club dispute

February 15, 1892
“Sir, – The letter of your correspondent, who signs himself “A Supporter of the Queen and Everton,” contains two or three misstatements which mar what is otherwise a very fair history of the dispute from a Houldingite standpoint. As your paper is our only official means of placing the matter correctly before the whole country, and especially before the heads of the Association itself, I beg for space to answer him.

“Politics have nothing whatever to do with the dispute. The fact that three-fourths of the members, as well as a majority of the Committee itself, belong to the same party as Mr. Houlding, is sufficient refutation of your correspondent’s assertion that the dispute is trammelled with politics.

Love letter and antique quill on a black background

 “The real cause of the deadlock is the determination of a vast majority of the members to carry on the club in the interest of sports merely, and not as a money-making concern, either to fill the pockets of Mr. Houlding or any other financier.

“Your correspondent assures Mr. Houlding that all the old members are with him. That is not so. I need only mention the names of Messrs. Wilson, Jackson, and Henderson, as loyal supporters of the decisions of the club, to show how misleading his assurance is.

“The statement that £50 was paid to secure the Goodison Road ground before the meeting of members agreed to it equally untrue. At the said meeting, Mr. William Clayton proposed that Mr. Houlding be offered a rent £180, thus showing that he was most anxious to meet that gentleman fairly. He could not have made such a proposal had the Goodison Road site been already secured, and thus the assertion bears its own refutation on the face of it. One of the rules of the Everton Club reads: –

‘That the decision of the majority of the members at a general meeting shall be binding upon the club.’

“Now, sir, an overwhelming majority of the members decided to reject Mr. Houlding’s company scheme; yet, in less than twenty-four hours afterwards, Mr. Houlding and his minions, in open defiance of that decision, proceed to London and registered the company.

“And your readers will remember that Mr. Houlding is still president of the club, contemptuously ignoring the general wish that he should retire from the post. If Mr. Houlding, as a City Councillor, does not know what the decision of a majority mean, thank goodness there is still the committee of the Association, with Lord Kinnaird at its head, able and willing not only to teach him but to depose him from the lofty pedestal on which he has placed himself.

“From the first Mr. Houlding’s treatment of the club has been more despotic, and since the members would have none of his company scheme he has shown not the least spirit of compromise. True he gave way, in the matter of the stands and on the question of the lease, but it was only at the last moment and under compulsion.

“On the other hand, the committee, supported by the vast majority of the members, have shown every disposition to meet their landlord president, by asking him to meet and talk matters over (which he doggedly refused to do), and by offering him the handsome rent of 4 per cent on his own valuation of the land, and not on the present value, which is admitted to be nearly one half what it formerly was. Yet Mr. Houlding has not had the courtesy even to acknowledge the committee’s communication.

“Your correspondent talks about the old members supporting Mr. Houlding. Then why did not even one or two of them sign his article of registration? Surely there was one man of substance amongst them!

“When your readers are told that of the seven who did sign, one is his son, another his servant, two others are men who are supposed to owe their situations to him, and the remaining three practically unknown men, they will know what value to put on Mr. Houlding’s support, and your correspondent’s assurance.

“Was it Mr. Houlding’s love of sport or gain which prompted him to buy the ground for the club? The continual improvements and enlargements at the Sandon Hotel answers the question – not to mention the long and determined opposition of Mr. Houlding to the opening of gates in Anfield Road for the convenience of the public, simply because they were to be placed on the side, furthest away from the Sandon.

“When permission is given to certain parties in the transaction, still further light will be thrown on this question. But what was the purchase money? At first it was stated to be £6,000; then it was reduced to £5,400, but it is not known whether even this amount is correct.

“When this unfortunate dispute is settled, either by the club remaining where it is at present or by removing elsewhere, one improvement is guaranteed, and that is the building of dressing-rooms on the ground for the players. It has long been a source of great regret to the members that visiting teams have had to walk – often through hostile crowds – the long distance from the ground to the Sandon. This danger and indignity at least will be spared them next season.

“In fighting against despotism, overbearing autocracy, and love of personal gain, the members of the Everton Club feel that they have the support of all true sportsmen. – Yours, &c.,
“Loyal Evertonian.”
(Athletic News: February 15, 1892)

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