The Billy Meredith case

June 1, 1906
A sensational report
Directors, officials and players suspended
Fines amount to £1,100.
The eagerly anticipated report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the Billy Meredith case, who was reported to the F.A. Council by the Manchester City Club, for whom he played before his term of suspension, was submitted to the Council at their meeting yesterday. The terms of the report, and the decisions of the Council, will read with widespread interest.

The members of the Commission were Messrs. J. C. Clegg, C. Crump, and D. B. Woolfall.

The report is subjoined: –
On February 14, 1906, the Manchester City Club addressed a letter to the Football Association complaining of the conduct of Billy Meredith, and his having demanded of the club payment of wages whilst under suspension, and made threats in consequence of the refusal of the club to comply with his demands.

The Council having appointed the Commission to inquire and report upon the matters referred to in the communication from the club, as the investigation proceeded it was found necessary not only to make inquiry into the allegations of the club as affecting the conduct of Meredith whilst under suspension, but also into matters relating to the management of the club since 1902.

It will be within the recollection of the Council that the Commission appointed in August, 1905, to inquire into irregularities in connection with the League match, Aston Villa v Manchester City, played at Birmingham on April 29, 1906, reported that in the course of the inquiry statements had been made that before the match commenced Billy Meredith, the captain of Manchester City F.C., offered a sum of money to Alex Leake, a player of Aston Villa F.C., to let Manchester City F.C. win the match.

The Commission having come to the conclusion that the charge was well founded the Council, on August 4, 1905, suspended Billy Meredith from taking any part in football or football management from August 5. 1905, until April 30. 1906. Meredith informed the present Commission that it was true he made an offer of £10 to A. Leake, at Birmingham. to let his club win the match, and that this offer was made in pursuance of a suggestion by Mr. T. E. Maley, the manager, and with the approval of other players. Mr. Maley having promised the team a bonus of £l00 if they won the League championship or equaled Newcastle United in points.

The Commission is satisfied that Billy Meredith did persistently and improperly demand from the directors of the club not only the wages to which would have been entitled had not been under suspension, but wages at the rate of £6 per week and bonuses for winning and drawing matches which the club bad agreed and promised to pay to him. He said he had allowed himself to be a scapegoat for others, and he expected they would see that he did not suffer monetary loss. Among other suggestions to this end, it was alleged that he asked that a dummy player should be signed on.

With regard to the management of the club: –
It was admitted that prior to July, 1902, the rules of the Football Association had not been observed. An agreement had been entered into by Mr. J. E. Chapman with Billy Meredith under which Meredith was to receive £6 per week. Mr. Chapman being desirous of being relieved from his liability, obtained the following indemnity from the then chairman and vice-chairman of the club.

* Manchester City F.C. *
“An agreement made this Seventh day of July. One Thousand nine hundred and two, between John Edward Chapman, of Stockport Road, in the City of Manchester, Hotel Proprietor, of the one part, and Edward Hulton and C. H. Waterhouse, for and on behalf of the Directors of the Manchester City Football Club Company, Limited, of the other part. Whereas a certain Agreement dated the 30th day of April, 1902, is in existence relative to services to be rendered the said club by one William Meredith, and whereas the said John Edward Chapman is under certain obligations to the said William Meredith. Now it is hereby agreed that the said Edward Hulton and C. H. Waterhouse shall, and do take over for and on behalf of the said club the said liability under the agreement, and agree to hold the said John Edward Chapman harmless in respect thereof.
“Dated this Seventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and two.
“John B. Chapman.
“E. Hulton.
“C. H. Waterhouse.

“Signed by the said John Edward Chapman, Edward Hulton and C. H. Waterhouse, in the presence of “George Madders, 2, Lyme Street, Manchester.”

The arrangement under which the £6 per week became payable to Meredith has each year been renewed. Similar arrangements were made with George Livingston, under which he received £6 10s. per week, and also other players for payment of wages in excess of the maximum allowed by the rules of the Football Association.

It was also admitted that promises had been made to the players of payment of bonuses varying from £1 to £6 for winning or drawing matches.

The following statement was handed to the Commission showing (as the Commission was informed) payments amounting £681 12s. 6d. as the balance of money paid to players bonuses for League matches and cup ties in the season of 1903-4, other moneys having been previously paid to the players: –

League matches:
Frank Booth, £20 6s. 6d.;
Billy Meredith, £26 0s. 0d.;
Jimmy Bannister, £10 1s. 0d.;
George Livingston, £20 9s. 0d.;
George Livingston, £25 0s. 0d.;
Tommy Hynds, £69 0s. 0d.;
Sammy Frost, £18 16s. 0d.;
Jack Hillman, £17 0s. 0d.;
Jack Hillman, £10 0s. 0d.;
Billy Gillespie, £16 0s. 0d.;
Sandy Turnbull, £21 16s. 6d.;
Herbert Burgess, £27 0s. 0d.;
Johnny McMahon, £34 3s. 0d.;
Billy Holmes, £14 6s. 9d.;
Tommy Broad, £5 0s. 0d.;
Robert Dearden, £6 0s. 0d.;
Robert Davidson, £23 10s. 6d.;
Billy Lyon, £25 0s. 0d.
Total: £389 10s. 3d.

Billy Meredith, £27 0s. 0d.;
Jimmy Bannister, £4 2s. 3d.;
George Livingston, £27 0s. 0d.;
Tommy Hynds, £27 0s. 0d.;
Sammy Frost, £27 0s. 0d.;
Billy Gillespie, £20 0s. 0d.;
Sandy Turnbull (on a/c), £12 0s. 0d.;
Sandy Turnbull (balance), £15 0s. 0d.;
Herbert Burgess, £27 0s. 0d.;
Johnny McMahon, £27, 0s. 0d.;
Billy Holmes, £25 0s. 0d.;
Robert Dearden, £27 0s. 0d.;
Sam Ashworth, £10 0s. 0d.;
John Edmondson, £17 0s. 0d.
Total: £292 2s. 3d.

S.B. Ashworth, an amateur player for the club during 1903-4, says that he received £10 about May 2, 1904, and £15 in notes and cheques about May 18 for his expenses during the season. He signed for £10 undated, which is not in the cash book, and received cheques dated May 5 for £16 and May 11 for £25, both of which appear in the cash book. The Commission is of the opinion that the £10 was for bonuses (see list supplied) and that the other sums were more than sufficient to cover expenses allowed by rule.

It was also admitted that in April. 1905, about £250. and during the same season other sums were paid by the club to players over and above the amounts to which they were entitled for wages. There is no record of this expenditure and receipts were not taken from the players.

From the admissions made by the directors the Commission is satisfied that the irregular payments to the players were made with money improperly stopped from the gate receipts. Although the money belonged to the club, it was not paid to the banking account of the club, but to account of individual directors, and at a bank other than the club’s bank. The present chairman of the club referred this account as “the Private and Secret Service Account,” and stated that it bad been in existence for some years. This bank book has been asked for but not produced.

Evidence was produced to the Commission that certain of the present directors had promised Meredith that as soon as Mr. Hindle, the accountant, could be got rid of (which it was hoped would be about October next), all his back money would be paid to him, and that if he kept quiet would not lose a penny piece. There was also evidence that other persons were informed of this promise. Meredith handed the following letter to the Commission in support of his allegation. Mr. Maley stated that the letter was read and approved by two of the directors before it was sent by him: –

“The Howard Hotel, Norfolk Street, Victoria Embankment, August 4, 1905.
“My Dear Billy. – The unexpected has, I am sorry to say, happened, and we are to be denied the pleasure of giving to you a well-earned benefit. Together with my directors, I join in offering you sincere and heartfelt sympathy.
“It is not our intention to take this lying down, and we have determined to see that all that is reasonable and just in the matter is done on your behalf.
“In order to assist us and thereby yourself in this matter we ask you to see no one, no matter whom, on the business, and if I can suggest any names in particular it is the Press – Manchester in particular. When it comes to Press utterance then you can rely on us giving them the necessary material.
“Keep away from Manchester for a week or so. I will come over and see you.
“I don’t think even yet that you will be the loser despite the present ugly aspect. Cheer up, my good fellow, and look at the other side of the year. All will yet come out well, and your position, instead of being assailed, will have been fortified.
“Mr. Pitfield and Mr. Davies join with me in sincerest sympathy and good wishes, and desire me to assure you of their best efforts on your behalf. – Aff. Yours. “Tom E. Maley.
“P.S. – Now understand, to no Pressman, not to anyone, even our friend in Hyde Road, a single word of any sort. Keep out of the way of everyone until I see you.”

The Commission has come to the conclusion that statements were made to Meredith which led him to believe that he would receive his moneys after Mr. Hindle had ceased to act.

The present directors of the club informed the Commission that several months after the 1904-5 board bad been appointed, the secretary, Mr. Maley (who personally made the arrangements for the signing-on of players, and did not always report the exact terms thereof), and the then chairman. Mr. W. Forrest, informed the directors that the old board had entered into agreements with various players which had made the club liable to pay various sums of money in connection with the signing-on of players, and that such sums were then due, and should be paid by the board.

The board were distinctly informed by the secretary and W. Forrest that these sums could be recovered against the board, and that if the same were not paid the players would be able to sue the club, and would succeed in recovering the sums agreed to be paid. They urged that with the exception of the chairman, Mr. W. Forrest, the 1904-5 board had had very little experience football management, and being inexperienced were naturally led by the advice of the secretary (who was an expert in these matters) and the then chairman. Mr. W. Forrest, and consequently the sums in question which had been agreed to be paid were duly paid in or about April. 1905.

It was stated that the directors who were appointed in November. 1904 (In the place of the directors who were then suspended), found the club’s affairs in what was described “a shocking chaotic state,” and that the players were constantly pestering for illegal money. The new directors promised to pay the illegal wages and bonuses which had been promised to the players the old directors.

The Commission is satisfied that under the pressure and guidance of Mr. W. Forrest, the late chairman, and Mr. Maley. the late secretary, the present directors made themselves parties to irregularities, and are blameable for having allowed themselves to be forced into the adoption and continuance of the irregular practices.

The Commission was also informed that in October, 1905, the board called the players of the club together, and informed them that no further payments would be made to them over and above the wage allowed by the rules of the Football Association, and that under no circumstances would the rules be broken in future.

It is now proved that the club had for years systematically broken the rules of the Football Association by very unscrupulous means, and that these practices were persisted in, notwithstanding previous punishments. The Commission have no reason to suppose that since October last (with the exception of the case of Billy Meredith) there has been any infringement of the rules of the Football Association, but are of opinion that the conduct of the club and players previously in respect of matters only now disclosed, and not previously dealt with, require most serious consideration.

The commission therefore recommends: –
That Mr. W. Forrest, the late chairman, and Mr. T. E. Maley. the secretary and manager of the club, be not allowed to again act in any capacity in connection with football under the Jurisdiction of the Football Association.

That Mr. John Allison and Mr. J.H. Davies, directors of the club, be suspended from taking any part in football management until May 1, 1907. The other directors excused themselves from responsibility upon the ground of want of knowledge of the proper management of a football club, or inattention to their duties, and they should be ordered resign, so as permit of the appointment of directors qualified to perform the duties of the office.

That the following players be suspended from taking any part in football or football management until January 1. 1907, and that they be fined: –
Billy Meredith, £100; George Livingston, £100; Tommy Hynds, £75; Johnny McMahon, £75; Jack Hillman, £50; Sandy Turnbull, £50; Frank Booth, £50; Herbert Burgess, £50; Sammy Frost, £50; Jimmy Bannister, £50; Robert Dearden, £50; Billy Gillespie, £50; Billy Holmes, £50; John Edmondson, £25; Robert Davidson, £25; Billy Lyon, £25; Sam Ashworth, £25.

That S.B. Ashworth declared a professional.

That all the players dealt with under this report be not allowed to again play for the Manchester City Club.

That the Manchester City Club be fined £250.

That the fines be paid before January 1. 1907.

That the fines, after paying the expenses of the Commission, be given to Manchester charities.

The recommendations of the Commission were adopted the Council.
(Source: Sporting Life: June 1, 1906)


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