Back to TOPSPURS home - the better you bet!

A History of Spurs’ Encounters with the Football Authorities

by logan holmes (EXCLUSIVELY for topspurs)

The events surrounding Spurs’ final game of the season against West Ham highlighted the chequered relationship the club has had with the football authorities.Tottenham Hotspur is a club respected around the world but when it comes to its dealings with the football authorities, it is invariably treated and dealt with like a naughty schoolboy.The history of Spurs is littered with examples of how the authorities have acted in such a way as to make an example of the club, whether Spurs have come to the regulators for redress on an issue or over some misdemeanour.The Football Association, Premier League, the Football League before them and even the European authorities invariably found against Spurs.


October, 1893 – ‘Ernie Payne’s Boots’

Even in their non-League days Spurs ran into difficulties with officialdom.Founded in 1882, Spurs’ early football was a mix of friendly games and Cup competitions under their amateur status.Eleven years after their formation Spurs drew 0-0 in a 1st Round London Senior Cup tie against Old St Marks.For that game, a new name, ‘Burton’, appeared on the team sheet, to play on the left wing for Spurs.This was in fact, Ernie Payne who was on Fulham’s books but being unable to get into their team, he accepted an invitation to play for Spurs.However, when he arrived at Tottenham he had no kit.Spurs provided him with shirt, shorts and socks but were unable to find boots to fit him.They gave him a loan of ten shillings (50p) to buy a pair of boots on the understanding that they would belong to Spurs.However, when Fulham heard about this they accused Spurs of ‘poaching’ their player and ‘professionalism’.†† Spurs were immediately called before the London Football Association to answer these charges.


The charge of poaching was dismissed but the charge of inducing a player and professionalism was upheld.The penalty imposed on Spurs was harsh – their ground at Northumberland Park was closed for two weeks, Spurs were suspended for a similar period and Ernie Payne was suspended for a week even though he had repaid the money to Spurs.An appeal was lodged but it was unsuccessful, the London F.A. being strongly opposed to anything suggesting of professionalism, a view that was holding back the development of football in London.


This matter became known as the ‘Ernie Payne Boots Affair’ and while Payne continued to play for Spurs, he is remembered for the longer term consequence of the matter in that Spurs, frustrated by the views held by the London FA, decided to turn professional.The club had received tremendous public support over the matter with the general view being that the London FA had been high-handed and had treated Spurs very severely.At a meeting in December, 1895, the decision was taken that Spurs would turn professional.


June, 1908 – Entering the Football League

Having turned professional Spurs joined the Southern League in 1896, they were Champions in 1899 - 1900 and won the FA Cup in 1901, the only non-League Cup to win the Cup since the formation of the Football League.During this time the Football League continued to be a preserve of teams from the Midlands and the north of England.The League was anxious to spread its influence into the south and was looking for clubs from that part of the country.In 1908 Spurs resigned from their position in the Southern League and applied for a place in the 2nd Division of the Football League.The AGM of the Southern League and the Football League were held on the same day at the end of May and the Southern League moved the time of their meeting forward by half and hour to coincide with the start time of the meeting of the Football League.The Southern League decided to exclude Spurs and QPR and replaced them with Coventry City and Southend United.However, having resigned, Spurs were more concerned with their application to the League but received a shock when they discovered they had been unsuccessful.Spurs were out-voted, Bradford City replaced the bottom club, Lincoln City, who had four votes more than Spurs.Being unwilling to go ‘cap in hand’ and re-apply to the Southern League, Spurs were facing a season without League football.


In mid-June Stoke City resigned their place in the Second Division for financial reasons, creating an opening which was a heaven sent opportunity for Spurs.Initially, Stoke were willing to support Spurs application but the matter would be decided at a special meeting of the Football League at the end of the month.Stoke had now decided they wanted to retain their place and were among the list of applicants which included Lincoln, Rotherham Town and Southport.In the voting Spurs and Lincoln were tied, the other clubs withdrew and in a straight contest Spurs and Lincoln were again equal.The decision was left to the Management Committee who voted in favour of Spurs who as former FA Cup winners had the potential to attract large crowds in London.


May, 1913 – The Invasion of the Woolwich Nomads

Five years after entering the Football League and having then gained promotion to the First Division, Spurs found their patch of North London under invasion.As stated in the recent edition of ‘Spurs Monthly’, ‘Woolwich Arsenal were in crippling debt, had a rapidly dilapidating stadium and were struggling to attract supporters owing to their poor location.’It was then that their Chairman, Henry Norris decided to move the club from the southern side of the Thames, north to Islington, less than five miles from Tottenham.This was a direct invasion of the area from where Spurs drew their support.There were immediate objections from Spurs, Leyton Orient and Chelsea and local newspapers wrote articles of protest.The protests fell on deaf ears at the Football Association and the move was sanctioned, enabling Arsenal to play their first game at Highbury in September, 1913.The reason for their move was confirmed in the programme for the first 2nd Division match at Highbury, ‘…the depressing times we had at Plumstead, with its poor train service and the lukewarm support we received from those in the immediate neighbourhood.’


The rivalry that had existed between two London clubs was now intensified as they became neighbours vying for support from the people of North London.


May, 1919 – Spurs Manoeuvred Out of 1st Division by Arsenal

Before the War, Spurs were in the 1st Division while Arsenal spent their first few seasons in North London in the 2nd Division, following their relegation in 1913.Although war was declared in September, 1914, League football continued for another year.Unfortunately for Spurs, that season saw them finish bottom of the Division, after losing three of their final four games. With League football suspended until the War was over, the rivalry between the two clubs would have been less intense as the whole nation worked together to support the ‘War effort.’Indeed, in 1916, when White Hart Lane was taken over by the Ministry of Munitions, Arsenal and Orient offered Spurs the use of their grounds.For three seasons until the end of the War, Spurs alternated their home games between Highbury and Orient’s ground.


However, when the War hostilities ended in 1919, hostility between the two clubs broke out with renewed vigour.If their offer of assistance during those three seasons was intended to soothe the relationship between the two clubs following their move into Spurs’ territory, Arsenal’s action immediately after the War, only intensified the situation.


For the restart of League football in September, 1919 the authorities decided to increase the 1st Division to twenty two clubs.On previous occasions the two clubs in the relegation places retained their status.Spurs assumed that this procedure would be maintained again but they hadn’t allowed for the scheming of Arsenal and Sir Henry Norris.He was desperate to get Arsenal into the 1st Division and although Arsenal had finished fifth in the 2nd Division in 1915, he managed to bring influence to bear to gain support for his club.It was only when the meeting was held that Spurs realised they had a fight on their hands.Spurs thought they had ‘right on their side’ but Arsenal had managed to gain eighteen votes to Spurs’ eight in second place.There was no logical reason for the decision but Spurs had lost their 1st Division status to the manipulation of their nearest neighbours.


Spurs were stung into action and won promotion at the first attempt, with a record number of points, won the FA Cup for a second time a year later and finished runners-up in the 1st Division in 1922, the highest finish by a London club.Needless to say, relationships between the clubs and fans reached a new low.To this day Arsenal have never earned their right to play in the top division – having had to rely on secretive negotiations carried on behind closed doors.

Spurs slipped into the Second Division in 1928 and apart from a two year spell in the early 1930s, they remained there until gaining promotion in 1950 when they began to establish themselves as a power in English football.There may be incidents when Spurs and the authorities didn’t see eye to eye during this period but it is in more recent times that the uneasy relationship again comes to the fore.


May, 1984 and May, 1987 – Fielding a Weakened Team

In today’s football, games are routinely changed for television or postponed to accommodate European games and assist clubs playing in the European competitions. The League Cup has removed replays from the fixture list, while second and third replays are a long time gone.It is now acceptable for teams to field under strength sides in the Cup competitions so that they can concentrate on the more lucrative European or Premiership games.This has greatly devalued these competitions but back in the seventies and eighties when Spurs were campaigning successfully around Europe, no such assistance would be provided under any circumstances.Today, managers and players complain of too many matches in the English game but back then, a successful team could routinely play sixty to seventy games in a season.In 1971-72 as Spurs when Spurs won the UEFA Cup they played 68 games.The 1st Leg of the semi-final of the UEFA Cup was played on the Wednesday after Easter.Spurs played three league games in four days on the weekend prior to the semi-final tie.They fulfilled the traditional Easter fixtures on Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Monday.The request for a postponement to one of those games to aid Spurs’ preparations for the game against AC Milan was refused by the Football League who displayed a typical lack of vision in this decision, being unable to see the benefits to be gained from Spurs’ success in Europe.As a result of so many games, the players were going into a semi-final match physically and mentally weary.Bill Nicholson had shuffled his players to try and keep them fit and rested for this important game but John Pratt who had established himself in the team broke his nose in the Monday game.The one good point from this was that Nicholson unexpectedly re-called Captain, Alan Mullery from his loan period at Fulham and Mullery ended his Spurs’ career in typical style leading by example.


Similar problems occurred in 1984 as Spurs again reached the Final of the UEFA Cup.Spurs had two games over the weekend of the May Bank holiday, immediately before the first game against Anderlecht in Belgium.On the Saturday a full strength side defeated Norwich at White Hart Lane.Spurs had requested a postponement of the Monday game against Southampton but were turned down.Keith Burkinshaw sent out a weakened team with Paul Miller the only player to appear in the Final two days later.The reserve side lost 0-5 and the Football League charged the club with fielding an under-strength team.


Three years later as Spurs prepared for the FA Cup Final against Coventry, David Pleat rested some of his players for the final League game against Everton.All issues surrounding the season had been settled – Everton were champions, Liverpool runners-up and Spurs third.Spurs played a total of 57 games that year and played seventeen games in the final nine weeks of the season from mid-March.The team lost by the only goal of the game but the club was fined £10,000 for resting players who turned out at Wembley a week later.

May, 1994 – Irregular Payments

During the previous year’s High Court proceedings caused by the acrimonious fall-out between Chairman, Alan Sugar and Chief Executive, Terry Venables, details of irregular payments to players came to light.On 12th May, 1994 the Football Association formally charged Spurs with misconduct for alleged irregular payment to a number of players. These had been made under the previous regime and were allegedly paid to players between 1985 and 1989.In the hope for clemency and that the authorities would treat them leniently, Spurs co-operated with the F.A. and assisted them by handing over documents which appeared to show that the payments had been made.


However, the F.A. were treating the matter very seriously and a fortnight later before any judgement had been given by the enquiry team, the F.A. announced the arrangements should Spurs be demoted from the Premier League to Division 1 as a result of their misdemeanours.Sheffield United who had finished 20th in the Premier League would be the beneficiary’s of Spurs punishment by retaining their place in the top flight.


It was looking bad for Spurs and when the F.A. Commission gave their verdict in mid-June, it wasn’t much better.The investigation covered 40 charges of malpractice which involved payments made to fifteen players.The enquiry found Spurs guilty and imposed a record fine of £600,000.They imposed a deduction of 12 points from their total at the end of the 1994-95 season and were expelled from the next season’s F.A. Cup.


These were the severest punishments ever handed out and shocked the football world.The punishments amounted to relegation by a slow and painful process.Fans were devastated and a heavy cloud of despondency hung over the club.Alan Sugar was so infuriated at the heavy handed nature of the F.A.’s treatment of the club that he immediately announced an appeal.He regarded the punishment as ‘a deliberate vendetta against our club and against me personally.’


The appeal against the penalties imposed by the F.A. enquiry into the charge of misconduct was held in early July.Chairman, Alan Sugar, was the man for the occasion – he presented Spurs’ case against the 12 point deduction, F.A.Cup ban and the £600,000 fine.Having considered the case, the Appeal panel halved the points deduction to six but increased the fine to £1,500,000 as well as maintaining the Cup ban.Sugar was still not satisfied and immediately announced that Spurs would again appeal against the penalties that had been imposed against the club.Sugar felt most aggrieved that the misconduct charges had been under a previous regime at the club and also that he had tried to co-operate with the F.A. over the investigation.


Spurs’ season started under the burden of a six point deduction but the arrival of Jurgen Klinsmann had given the club a much needed boost.The appeal didn’t take place until early December when Alan Sugar had his finest hour as he battled successfully against the Football Association to secure Spurs’ re-instatement to the F.A.Cup.††† Sugar had been so enraged by the punishment that he had promised to have the decision over turned.He was as good as his word and kept up the fight in spite of various set-backs and won the day, much to the delight of the fans who would be able to look forward to a 3rd Round home tie against Altrincham in January.†† In the view of the arbitration tribunal, the F.A.’s charges against Spurs had been ‘misconceived, bad in law and should not have been proceeded with….. and it was irrational to impose any penalty other than a fine.’


The authorities had treated Spurs in a heavy handed manner, taking no account of Spurs full co-operation in the investigation and they certainly had not anticipated coming face to face with someone like Alan Sugar.Such an encounter showed the Spurs’ Chairman at his best – he would not be put down by those in authority and was prepared to fight to the bitter end to get justice for Tottenham Hotspur.It is interesting that subsequent enquiries involving other clubs have dragged on interminably and have quietly ‘white-washed’ all issues, with no-one coming to account.


January, 2005 – Mendes’ ‘Goal’

The first away game of 2005 took Spurs to Old Trafford to face Manchester United where in the final minutes Pedro Mendes scored a ‘goal’ from forty yards.The ball was so far over the line that almost everyone inside Old Trafford realised he had scored a wonderful goal and certainly everyone watching the game on television knew Spurs had taken the lead.The fourth official knew it was a goal, Sky television had even changed their score line on screen before realising that the Assistant referee and his colleague were unaware that it was a goal and had waved play on.Martin Jol responded to this decision with great dignity and understanding, even though underneath he must have been seething.Would Sir Alex Ferguson have been so reasonable and charitable in similar circumstances?


The officials were amused at the end, newspapers showed photographs of the non-goal, the authorities kept their heads down and made excuses that the assistant referee would have needed the speed of a greyhound to have been up with play and within a week it was forgotten about.A season and a half later and while there has been talk of using technology to aid officials, exactly nothing has happened.The referee’s decision is final and Spurs had lost two points which their display had deserved, Martin Jol and the players didn’t receive the rewards their display merited and United were relieved to have taken a point to keep them on track for Champions League qualification.If one of the top clubs had been on the wrong end of such a decision, would the matter have died away so quickly?


May, 2006 – The Viral Infection

This most recent example came at the close of Spurs’ best ever season in the Premiership and the best season the club has experienced in some considerable time.Going into the final game, UEFA cup football was assured for next season but there was still the possibility of claiming fourth position and qualification for the Champions League with all the money spinning opportunities it provides.However, there was the uncertainty created by the possibility of Arsenal winning the Champions League and so depriving Spurs of that opportunity but Spurs had held fourth since mid-December and wanted to maintain that position.Spurs had seen off a number of challengers but Arsenal had reduced their lead to one point so the outcome of this game was critical – Spurs had to at least match the result in Arsenal’s game against Wigan Athletic in their final match at Highbury.The rivalry between the two clubs is such that both sets of supporters wanted to have the bragging rights at the end of the season.


For such an important game everything had to be right but in Spurs’ case, it started to go wrong in the early hours of Sunday morning as up to ten members of the squad were struck down with illness.The initial thought was of food poisoning but subsequent tests have suggested a viral infection had affected the players.Such was the condition of the players that the club contacted the Premier League to explain their difficulty and requested a possible postponement.The Premier League sent an England doctor to the hotel where the players had stayed overnight but before he had provided any information, they announced that the match must go ahead.Discussions had taken place between the clubs and the Premier League about delaying the game but with the police only prepared to sanction a two hour delay, the Spurs’ medical staff were of the opinion that that would be of little benefit to the players.


While being told that the game would go ahead at the appointed time, Tottenham were informed that they could decide not to play but were mindful and fearful of the punishment handed out to Middlesbrough who had not fulfilled a fixture a number of seasons previously – a three point deduction.


Spurs fulfilled the fixture but lost the game to a West Ham side who were fully committed in spite of their FA Cup Final appearance the following weekend.Spurs started the game with their strongest line-up, allowing for the injuries to King, Jenas, Stalteri and Mido.However, it was obvious that many of the players were suffering from the effects of their illness – Robinson looked uncomfortable, Dawson looked dreadful from the very start, while Michael Carrick was only able to play for an hour.Throughout the game the players lacked the spark and endeavour that had characterised their most recent performances against Bolton, Arsenal and Manchester United but all deserve credit for their total commitment and that they were able to keep the game so close while never really looking capable of achieving the win that was required as a result of Arsenal taking the three points from Wigan.


In the days after the game, Chairman Daniel Levy wrote to the Premier League seeking a replay.He argued that the they had a made a hasty decision without knowing all the facts and that Spurs had not been given an opportunity to play their most important game of the season on equal terms to everyone else as they had had to field players who were unwell, depriving them of the opportunity to stake a claim for the final Champions League place.


Having received the letter, the Premier League arranged a meeting to consider the request but then an official from the League announced that Tottenham had fulfilled the fixture and the result would stand.The decision had again been taken before consideration could be given to the matter.The committee subsequently decided against Spurs, no surprise there, making an issue of the fact that they had fifty three professionals registered and so had adequate cover to replace the affected players.


The club, manager, players and supporters were left feeling aggrieved and annoyed about the way this matter was handled when it was such an important game for Spurs.They felt cheated but the club conducted themselves with dignity throughout, stating the facts and not making excuses while the authorities would appear to have been making it up as they went along.Their reasoning that all games on the final day must kick-off simultaneously was unnecessary as matches kick-off at different times and days throughout the season and Spurs already knew that they needed to win to be certain of fourth and it wasn’t going to be altered by knowing Arsenal’s result.


This has been the most recent example of the authorities failing to provide any understanding or support for Spurs in their difficulty and ultimately deciding against them.However, everyone is left wondering what would have been the re-action of the authorities if Arsenal, Manchester United or Chelsea had been afflicted by illness prior to an important game and how those particular clubs and their managers would have conducted themselves in the aftermath.At a time when the media has regarded the issue as something of a joke, it would also be fairly safe to predict that they would have filled pages on reports of injustice claims on behalf of those clubs with calls for campaigns for mediation in their favour.


June, 2005 – Frank Arnesen’s Defection to Chelsea.

In light of Spurs’ record and association with the authorities over the years, it is perhaps not surprising that in this incidence, Spurs decided to go their own way, rather that seek retribution through the Football Association or Premier League.


The news of Frank Arnesen’s defection to Chelsea came as a complete surprise to everyone.The Director of Football role that he had held for less thana year was the basis of the club’s future planning – he worked alongside the Head Coach identifying and signing players who would fit into the team plan.He had had a busy first year with the playing staff requiring a massive overhaul and was expected to be busy in the summer transfer market as more replacements were sought.That he had gone to Chelsea was a shock and then it came to light that Chelsea had approached him without permission.The Tottenham board immediately protested and went through protracted negotiations with the West London club before coming to an arrangement and settlement with them.Many wanted Spurs to make a formal complaint so that the Football Association and Premier League could investigate Chelsea’s conduct in this matter but Daniel Levy working from a position holding the moral high ground conducted his own negotiations as to what was best for Tottenham Hotspur.The Spurs directors were perhaps fearful of a ‘whitewash’ with an inquiry afraid to challenge Chelsea’s behaviour and allowing them to walk away unpunished.The lack of support from the authorities on previous occasions may have encouraged the club to fight their own battle as they sought retribution and compensation.


Tottenham Hotspur has received much respect for the way it has handled its business in recent years – it has not gone down the line of shouting the odds and blaming all and sundry – it has acted with dignity and while at times we have felt let down and annoyed at the authorities – that is the Spurs way and the men who did so much to create and establish this great club’s reputation would approve.It was the John Ripsher way, the John Oliver way, the John Cameron way, the Arthur Rowe way and the Bill Nicholson way.


Logan Holmes



. .

Bet on Spurs with Sporting Odds


Back to Topspurs Columnists

Back to Topspurs Home

Back to Topspurs Editorial

Disclaimer: Please note the words on this page are the opinion of Spurs supporters and are just that, opinions, not facts and are nothing to do with Tottenham Hotspur Football club PLC. Just a supporter having his say, nothing more nothing less