The Future of Football (from 1918)

Whilst back home in the UK last week I was able to take a look through an old newspaper that I had been meaning to look through for a long time. The newspaper? The Times, November 12th, 1918. And knowing general history this being the day just after the First World War had come to an end.

I being a fan of history of course wanted to take a very careful look through it. So I began, it all being very interesting and giving a quick glimpse into the life of someone living on that very day. Advertisements for Harrods, Gillette and War Funds. Not to mention the sad lists of those who were wounded or killed in action.

However there was ONE sport article within this paper, an article discussing the state of football affairs post-war. It is a shame there is no actual reporter name to this article. But here it reads…

The Future of Football: Professional Reform (From a Football Correspondent)

“Association Football has become so important a part of the nation’s  recreation that its future calls for most careful consideration. The principal officers of the Football Association, holding this view, have called an informal meeting for to-day, so that those responsible for the government of the game can express their opinions. 

Amateurs will return to their pastime as peace arrangements permit; the great work of the authorities centres in the professionals. In the Summer of 1915 the Football Association prohibited the payment of  players during the period of war, but otherwise encouraged the clubs to provide entertainment for the many thousands of people who desired this kind of relaxation from war work or anxieties. The wisdom of this action has proof in the large attendances and general interest which the modified competitions have aroused. Of equal importance, the machinery that runs the business side of this great game remains in working order. Moreover, during these seasons under war conditions it has become apparent that the trained football player who in normal times earned his living solely by the game, can engage in trade, or carry out his duty as a soldier, and still be in a fit condition to do himself justice on the football field. A strong idea is, therefore, prevalent  that there should not be a return to the old state of professional football with its buying and selling of players, the payment of £200 or more a year for a few hours actual play each week during eight months of the year, and the remainder of a mans time is wasted as an asset to the community. 

Perhaps the hundreds of thousands of spectators who assemble on Saturday afternoon have little thought for the morals of the game; but the authorities have had to contend with many difficulties which they desire to remove. Their attitude towards this endeavour will be watched with earnest hope that they will evolve a scheme to raise the status of the professional and the game in its business aspect.”


Now by this point in history The FA itself had already been around for just over 50 years, plus the FA Cup had been running just over 40 years. The FA during that time I’d have said was very quite progressive in business, they knew they were there for the purpose of the people. During this time of war entertainment and escapism was very much needed.

To see where the game has come from is astounding. The ideas of a business side to a club being very much integrated in The FA’s plans. However I wonder what they would think as to HOW big the business of football has become with transfer fees, stadiums, sponsorship, club buying/selling…the list goes on. Plus not to mention £200 in those days as an annual pay for a player if I have used correct sources would only be around £12-14 000 in todays money.

Now hypothetically speaking quite the crisis and world event would have to happen in order for players pay to be halted ever again. The likelihood of players pay being stopped though, when pigs fly. Plus players now and professional athletes in general sometimes have nothing to fall back onto when their playing career is over. Some athletes genuinely not knowing what to do and become lost in their new non professional athlete lives. The ‘strong idea’ in the article that bluntly states a man playing football for eight months and  only playing football a few hours a week with the ‘remainder of a mans time is wasted as an asset to the community.’  would be blasphemous nowadays.

Yet the article does show the ideologies of that time and sadly can still reflect slightly into todays sport world, the stiff upper lip approach still being taken when it comes to mental health. Today, improvements have most definitely been made in comparison to then. Players who had served as soldiers could be perfectly capable of getting back onto the field physically but the aspect of mental health just being disregarded.

The final paragraph states how spectators who watch on a Saturday afternoon have little thought for the morals of the game and the authorities have had to contend with such problems. This again in football even 99 years later still proves to be a problem.

Lastly, at the base of this article the idea that football and clubs were there to boost morale, bring communities together and provide a sense of escapism during war time is wonderful. And that idea of sport and football being an escape from today’s problems is still very much there.




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