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Arsenal and Chelsea – Their Common Foe (Part Two)

Continuing the look at the rivalry that Arsenal and Chelsea boih share with another Londin club, Tottenham Hotspur (or Spurs).

For Part One please click here. Part Two Continues with the Arsenal – Spurs rivalry.

Boardroom Shenanigans

The enmity between the two clubs really began in 1919 after the end of the First World War, football having been suspended four years earlier because of the hostilities.

At the moment of suspension, Arsenal had been languishing in the Second Division and finished sixth in their last season, whilst Tottenham were in the First Division, but threatened with relegation, along with Chelsea.

With the league set to resume, it was decided an optimum time to restructure the league, and the decision was taken to expand the First Division to 22 clubs.

A special meeting was convened on 10th March, 1919, and, although what exactly transpired has never been made public, the outcome soon became the stuff of legends. Chelsea, who would have been relegated under the old format, earned a reprieve and were given a place in the newly reconstituted top flight.

Spurs were not so lucky. Already sensing that the winds might be blowing against them, they had sent a letter to all the other league clubs putting forward arguments why they should be elected to the new First Division.

Meanwhile, Arsenal had begun to lobby behind the scenes, and began to drip feed articles to the press putting forward their won case.

Arsenal co-owner, Norris was good friends with John “Honest” Mckenna, Chairman of the FA, and began to exert his influence, by canvassing, ahead of the meeting, every member of the FA, except for the Tottenham directors.

Norris had the gift or oratory, and his address to the meeting was one of his best. He promised that, if his club were promoted, there would be higher gate receipts – an attractive proposition at a time when money taken through the turnstiles was split between the clubs.

He also argued that Arsenal’s proximity to the West End of London would give travelling directors and their families a great chance to sample the delights of the Capital. And he also claimed that Arsenal deserved their spot because of the lengthy service to the league –  s somewhat spurious argument because Wolves had been in the league since its inception and they were overlooked.

Although there was no evidence that bribery or corruption were involved, when it came to the votes, Norris had won the day. Arsenal won 18 votes to Tottenham’s eight and were promoted at their expense.

So shocked and outraged by Spurs as top what had happened that it is reported that the club parrot, which had been gifted to them after a tour of South America, is reported to have keeled over as died on hearing the news.

It gave rise to the popular expression “as sick as a parrot”, which is how many Tottenham fans felt afterwards.

Arsenal profited by that decision to the extend that they are the club with the longest continuous run in England’s top flight.

By contrast, Everton, second on the all-time list, have not been relegated for 67 years.

Many associated with Tottenham have never forgiven Norris for what he did at that meeting in Manchester in 1919.

A look at the rivalry that Arsenal and Chelsea share in common with another Londin club Tottenham Hotspur (Part One).

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