The £4 a week maximum wage, set in 1900, meant that no player, regardless of talent or experience, was free to negotiate higher earnings with his club, whether by way of bonuses or signing-on fees. Billy Meredith was determined that players should get organised to fight their case for contractual and financial freedom. Facing up to the powers that were, they risked total banishment from the game: this is the story of the players who fought for financial and contractual justice for all.
The First World War saw the Players Union close down as professional football ceased and hundreds of players joined the armed forces. Football continued, but only on a part-time basis. When the war ended in 1918, most of the pre-war union officials were still in uniform and abroad. The union would be revived in a strange way.