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.
Billy 'the wiz' Meredith chairs the first meeting of the Professional Footballers' Association in Manchester. A hugely significantly moment for the nascent Players Union is the case of Manchester City. City had won the FA Cup for the first time in 1903, but the following season, after anonymous accusations of attempted bribery against their captain and star player, Billy Meredith, the complete cup-winning side was suspended and banned by the FA from ever playing for City again. Meredith served an 18-month suspension and was eventually transferred to Manchester United, but he was now determined that players should get organised to fight their case for contractual and financial freedom. Within a few months of returning from suspension, on December 2nd 1907, he convened the first meeting of a new Association Football Players’ Union at the Imperial Hotel, Manchester. Soon after, Manchester United goalkeeper Herbert Broomfield was offered the job of first full-time union secretary with a salary of £150 per annum for three years. The new union saw its aim as not just financial and contractual freedom, but also the creation of a body that would help all professional footballers no matter what their station, to obtain justice in disputes with their clubs, and restitution in the case of injury and punishment.
Arthur Wharton was the world’s first black professional footballer. He had moved to Darlington with the intention of training as a Methodist missionary but opted instead to become a full-time athlete. And during a career that spanned 17 years, he went on to play as a goalkeeper for Preston North End, Rotherham Town, Sheffield United and Stockport County. Not just skilled with a ball, Wharton was a true all-round athlete. In 1886 he became the Amateur Athletics Association's national 100-yard running champion – and become the first man to run 100 yards in ten seconds flat. He also excelled in cricket, boxing, cycling and rugby league and union before turning his full attention to football – in which he played primarily in goal, but also occasionally on the right wing. A statue of Wharton was recently unveiled at the St. George's Park national football centre in Burton.
Billy was a right-winger noted for his 'Scottish Style' close ball control and trickery. He was also a prolific goal-scorer, setting many records for both club and country. In his first 10 years with Manchester City he captained the club to promotion to the First Division and in 1904 to the club's first significant trophy, the FA Cup, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Bristol City at Crystal Palace. He moved to Manchester United in January 1907 and played for the next eight seasons at Old Trafford, before professional football closed down in 1915 of the duration of the Great War. With Manchester United Billy won the League Championships, in 1908 and 1911, and helped the club to its first FA Cup triumph in 1909. His football philosophy: "You cannot have too much ball practice, and that is one thing I wish the youngsters of today would take to heart."
Harry played for Burton Swifts, Reading and Notts County from the late 1890s to 1911. He captained Reading for five years before retiring to be a publican. Unlike many of the prestigious players on the Union Management committee, he met with little tangible success on the field during his career, but was considered a fine player. It was written: “He tackles fearlessly and skilfully and renders every assistance to the forward line, whilst in defence he is a tower of strength, using his head with capital effect.” Oddly, this could also serve as a suitable commentary on Harry’s career with the union.
It's that man Meredith again, this time leading his members to the brink of strike action over wage and transfer restraints. Any uneasy peace deal is struck whereby the Football League recognises the union and agrees to the principal of bonus payments. On the pitch, Manchester United make up for the disappointment of losing the First Division title to Newcastle by defeating Bristol City 1-0 in the FA Cup. A whitewash in the Home Championship leaves England undisputed kings or British football. The team also score eight goals against both Austria and Hungary during a central European tour.
The case of George Parsonage, a Fulham player suspended from football for life in 1909 for daring to ask for more than the regulatory £10 signing-on fee, was a high-profile case that galvanised his fellow professionals to join the union. On his behalf The union started a petition that eventually drew some 1,322 signatures. Fearing members would one day resort to strike action, the FA withdrew its support from the union and demanded that every player resign from it or else be banished from the game. Manchester United’s players, led by captain Charlie Roberts, refused and were promptly suspended by the club. They became the focal point for a summer-long battle of wills, which culminated in a stand-off at the beginning of the 1909/1910 season. With the League clubs facing the prospect of no games, the FA backed down, and the Manchester ‘Outcasts’, as they had been dubbed, won a famous victory. The union survived – but only just and at the expense of its wider Trades Union links.
The case of George Parsonage, a Fulham player suspended from football for life in 1909 for daring to ask for more than the regulatory £10 signing-on fee, was one particular high-profile case that galvanised professionals to join the newly formed union. Parsonage's uncompleted transfer to Chesterfield sent shock waves through dressing rooms up and down England. Parsonage was seemingly uninterested in moving to Chesterfield but he was put under pressure by his current club Fulham to speak with George Swift, Chesterfield's Manager. The Derbyshire club offered a wage of £4 per week and a signing-on fee of £10. These were the maximum permitted amounts at the time under FA law. Parsonage's reply-to the offer of a signing-on fee was: "Make it fifty, or I cannot come." Upon learning of his comment Fulham demanded that Parsonage be reported to the FA and also implicated Chesterfield, but rather than be cast as the guilty party Chesterfield reported Parsonage for demanding an illegal payment. Parsonage was faced an FA inquiry and was denied the right to any legal representation. The FA ignored a petition of four thousand signatures in his support. For attempting to solicit an illegal payment from Chesterfield Town, Parsonage was banned for life from any involvement in football.
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.
In late 1910, the Union had started helping Herbert 'Rabbit' Kingaby in his struggle to get away from Aston Villa. Kingaby was being held by Villa under the old retain and transfer rule, whereby a club was free to put a ridiculous transfer fee on a player's head, knowing no other club would be willing to pay it. The player then had no alternative but to stay put and accept whatever was offered him. Kingaby took Villa to court and the case was heard in March 1912 before a special jury of the King's Bench Division in London. Though hopes were high that the transfer system would be swept away as 'restrictive' and thus contrary to law, the hearing lasted just two days with the judge ruling that Villa had no case to answer. This was mainly because the lawyer acting for Kingaby and the Union had attacked Villa's motives as 'malicious', rather than attacking the transfer system itself. It was a mistake that almost bankrupted the Union and it would be another 50 years before they would be in a position to challenge the system again in court.
A strong, thoughtful half-back, Colin was very much a tactician. He captained Newcastle on many occasions, turning out 321 times in his 15 years there, when they were League Champions three times (1905, 1907 and 1909) and cup winners five times (1905, 1906, 1908, 1910 and 1911). He also won six England caps. He became a lieutenant in the war and later coached Newcastle reserves until 1926. He managed Bradford City for two years before turning to full-time journalism. He wrote for the local and national press as a player, and in July 1929 he joined the Newcastle Evening Chronicle group as a sports reporter. Multi-talented, Colin was a socialist, playwright, theatrical producer, composer and actor of some merit.
The rule stipulating that the referee must give a player permission to re-enter the field of play is introduced after Barnsley’s Robert Glendenning runs back on wearing only one boot and clears a certain goal for West Bromwich Albion during the replayed FA Cup Final at Bramall Lane. Glendenning is receiving treatment for a bruised ankle at the time. Harry Tufnell scores the winner for the Yorkshire side with two minutes of extra time remaining. There’s a new name on the First Division trophy too, as Blackburn Rovers finish three points ahead of Everton. The England amateur team again strike gold for Great Britain at the Stockholm Olympics.
Harry became secretary of the PFA in 1913 and remained in the post until his death in 1929. He was one of the unsung heroes of the players’ struggle, serving 16 years on and off, and sacrificing a great deal of his own time and money. In 1919, when the union was revived, he was granted £7 a week, plus £1 a week rental for the union office that was situated in his home. He was also granted £100 for his war work on the union’s behalf (to compensate for earnings lost as a travelling salesman). He pressed for Henry Leddy to take his broke contract case to court, thus achieving the first significant breakthrough for the union in its battle for justice. He regularly upbraided players during the 1920s for not supporting their organisation. In 1924 he declared, “The player today is reaping the benefit of that history and until such times as he needs the help and assistance of the Union is prepared to let others bear the burden. Shame, I say.”
The FA Cup Final receives the royal seal of approval as King George V becomes the first reigning monarch to grace the event with his presence. The red rose in his button hole fails to bring luck to Liverpool, who lose by a single goal to Burnley. The scorer is former Evertonian Bert Freeman. This is the last time that the cup final is played at Crystal Palace, as war intervenes and the FA Cup is suspended for the duration of hostilities. Aston Villa fail to avenge the disappointment of coming second in 1913 after they suffer the frustration of finishing runners-up in the race for the First Division title for the second year in a row, with Blackburn Rovers emerging as champions for the first time in the club’s history.
The First World War, which began in 1914 and ended in 1918, changed many peoples' understanding of conflict. Young men from across the world enlisted or were constricted to fight including professional footballers. Between October 1915 and 1919 the Players' Union ceased to exist; so indeed, did professional footballers, even though the League carried on as if nothing had happened. Competitions continued, referees, club officials and managers were paid while many clubs made reasonable profits. Officially the line was that all men must be encouraged to join up- this was Union policy too. Some clubs at first offered men full pay if they went, or promised to look after their wives and children. Aston Villa sent out a circular to their players in December 1914 making just such an offer. Manchester City also said that they would continue paying wages to men joining up 'provided we have the money at the gate.'
Larrett Roebuck, one of the first footballers to be killed in the First World War. On the 21st April 1914, he signed a contract worth £2 per week with the Yorkshire club, which was set to rise to £3 at the beginning of the 1914/15 season. Tragically he made his final appearance only four days later in a 1-0 victory at Leicester Fosse (renamed Leicester City in 1919). War was declared on August 4 1914 and Roebuck's Territorial regiment was called into action. It was on October 18 1914, while serving with the 2nd Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment in France that Lance-corporal Roebuck became one of the first professional footballers to be killed in the Great War. It was the eve of the First Battle of Ypres, when Roebuck was listed as one of 34 men missing in action following an attack on an enemy position near Beaucamps-Ligny.
Clapton Orient (now Leyton) players and staff enthusiastically supported the campaign to join the forces following the outbreak of war, with 40 players and backroom staff volunteering for the cause making them the first Football League team to sign up en masse. Club captain Fred Parker was the first to enlist along with goalkeeper Jimmy Hugall with both joining the Footballers' Battalion and the rest of the players followed their example. Three players lost their lives, William Jonas, Richard McFadden and George Scott all fell in 1916 on the Somme with a further 10 players being wounded. The club's efforts in the Great War were marked in 2011 when a memorial funded by supporters was unveiled at Flers on the Somme.
On Christmas Day 1914 in Flanders, Belgium, British and German soldiers put down their guns and started playing an impromptu game of football in no man's land. It was a spontaneous and shared occasion that became one of the most recognisable moments of the First World War. Soldiers made the most of the ceasefire by talking and exchanging gifts with the enemy. French and Belgian soldiers also took part. Reports of frontline matches between enemy troops emerged in letters home on both sides. One account appeared in a letter to the Times on 1 January 1915. The Christmas truce was never repeated.
A powerful, committed player, Joe developed on the Wirral before signing for Nottingham Forest in May 1910. He enlisted in the 17th Middlesex Regiment soon after the German bombing raids on Scarborough in December 1916. In April 1917, the battalion were caught up in fierce fighting around the village of Oppy. The 28th April proved to be the worst day in the history of Footballers' Battalion with over 40 casualties and 250 taken prisoner. It wasn't until 2 months later his family found out he had been taken prisoner which he would have to endure for 18 months before he could return home. Joe resurrected his career briefly with Tranmere Rovers but was never quite the same.
Frank Buckley or Major Buckley as he was often known became one of the most famous managers in the land - laying the foundations for the great Wolverhampton Wanderers team of the 1950s. Soon after war broke out he was lined up for an officers commission with the 17th Middlesex Regiment signing up as a lieutenant before being promoted to captain by the beginning of 1915. Buckley travelled to France with the Battalion in November 1915 and saw heavy action at the Battle of the Somme. He was involved with skirmishes at Delville Wood and was badly injured with metal shrapnel lodged in his chest and lungs. He was evacuated home to recover. After the Armistice he was unable to return to playing and began a second career in the game, this time as management.
Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, a heated debate took place in the letter pages of national and local newspapers about the continuance of professional football during a time of national crisis. The row grew increasingly vitriolic and in late November 1914 the FA and FM Kitchener realised that something had to be done. The following month the Rt. Hon Joyson Hicks raised the Footballers' Battalion (17th Middlesex) at a meeting in Fulham Town Hall with some 35 professional footballers enlisting straight away. As an incentive, new recruits were promised that they would be released from the army to play every Saturday for their respective clubs. Over the next few months, another 300 or so professional players enlisted from around fifty football clubs, including West Ham, Chelsea, Liverpool, Leyton Orient, Plymouth Argyle and Reading.
The 17th Middlesex were sent to France in November 1915 where the men's first experience of the trenches took place around Loos. In the Spring of 1916 the Battalion moved south to Vimy Ridge, where it undertook its first offensive action near Souchez. During this period, the Battalion football team unsurprisingly beat every Army team against which it played during the war. In one football tournament the Battalion team scored 44 goals without reply.
In July 1916, the 17th Middlesex entrained for the Somme, where the Battalion fought at Delville Wood and Guillemont. Many footballers were among the dead and wounded. It needed a draft of 716 men to bring the Battalion back up to strength in mid-August. In November the Battalion attacked near Serre, during the final stages of the Somme offensive; once again sustaining heavy casualties.
On 28 April 1017, the 17th Middlesex were virtually annihilated at Oppy Wood during the Arras offensive, only one officer and 41 men returning unscathed from the German lines. After a period of reconstitution, the 17th Middlesex then faced the full onslaught of the German counter-attacks at Cambrai, where they held their ground under severe pressure, one of its officers, Capt Allastair McReady-Diarmid, winning a posthumous VC.
Despite its proud record, the 17th Middlesex were disbanded in February 1918 when the number of Battalions within a brigade was reduced from four to three in the wake of manpower shortages.
After making his first-team debut for Cardiff City in 1913, Keenor established himself as a regular in the half-back line from 1915. However, war put an end to regular football from April 1915 when Fred enlisted in the 17th Middlesex regiment as a private. He was promoted to sergeant and made occasional appearances for the battalion's football team but by the Summer of 1916 he found himself at the front of France and fighting in the Battle of the Somme. Around this time he suffered a leg wound which threatened his football career, fortunately he recovered and returned to Cardiff. He went on to make 414 League and Cup appearances for the Bluebirds. He concluded his career with a spell at Crewe Alexandra.
Charles Buchan was one of the most influential figures in British football from the 1920s through until his death in 1960. Buchan was already an established First Division player when war broke out and was keen to enlist with the army, but it was only when his contractual arrangement with Sunderland ended in April 1915 that he was free to do so. In August 1915 he enlisted as a private with the Grenadier Guards, He rose through the ranks gaining promotion to lance corporal and then sergeant. Despite spending most of the remainder of the war in France and serving in three major battles - The Somme, Cambrai and Passchendaele - he survived unscathed. During this time he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery and after being given a commission returned to England to attend the Officer's Cadet School at Catterick Camp in Yorkshire. In early post-war years Buchan served on the committee of the Players' Union and became one of the country's best players wining further England caps and netting a club record of 209 Football League goals for the Wearsiders.
Sam joined Blackburn Rovers as a teenager and played regularly in the club's reserve team in the years leading up to the outbreak of war. Initially considered too young for military service, he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery after lying about his age, so keen he was to get to war. He fought on the Western Front where he suffered shrapnel wounds to his ankle. Sam also suffered badly from 'shell shock'. He returned to Ewood Park after his demobilisation to be told he wasn't needed. Before the end of the 1920-21 season, Huddersfield Town's new manager Herbert Chapman signed him up. He went on to make 300 appearances for the club, helping them to become the first club to win the Football League title three seasons in a row.
The 23rd Middlesex arrived on the Western Front in May 1916 and went into the line near Le Touquet. In August 1916 the Battalion moved south to the Somme, where it participated in the attack at Flers (the first occasion on which tanks appeared on the battlefield), suffering heavy casualties.
On 7 June 1917 the 23rd Middlesex were involved in the attack at Messines, a few miles south of Ypres. Four days later, when the Battalion left the front line, only eight officers and 298 other ranks had not become casualties. Over the next few months, the Battalion fought bravely in the Battles of Pilckem Ridge and the Menin Road during the Passchendaele offensive.
In November 1917 the 23rd Middlesex were sent to help shore up the Italian front, in the wake of the German Victory at Caporetto. The Battalion returned to the Western Front in March 1918, where it played its part in helping stern a series of German offensives. As the tide of the war turned in the summer if 1918, the Battalion took part in the Advance to Victory.
Perhaps the man that best encapsulated the selfless nature and incredibly courageous character of all that served was Donald Bell. He was one of the first footballers to join up and left a burgeoning career at Bradford Park Avenue to lead his men into battle. As an Officer in The Yorkshire Regiment he demonstrated a fearless and unrestrained degree of courage. One such act of incredible bravery saw him win the Victoria Cross during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 when he stormed a machine gun post and put it out of action. He would die before he received his medal, killed in action just five days later on 10th July 1916 while performing a similar attack. Bell was just 25. He is buried in Gordon Dump Cemetery. Donald Bell would never again grace the sporting field but his sacrifice on the battlefield ensured that his memory would live on and always be an important part of the PFA's heritage. The PFA purchased his Victoria Cross at auction in 2010 for £250,000, which is on display at the National Football Museum, in Manchester.
Evelyn Lintott was a PFA Chairman and England international who played as a half back for Plymouth Argyle and Queens Park Rangers in the Southern League and Bradford City and Leeds City in The Football League. He was one of the first players to sign up after war was declared and joined the West Yorkshire Regiment's 15th Battalion known as the Leeds Pals. He was promoted to lieutenant and became the first professional footballer to hold a commission. Lintott was killed in action on 1 July 1916, the first day of what was to become known as the Battle of the Somme, aged just 32.
A report on his death said: 'Linott killed by machine gun at 3pm in the advance. He was struck in the chest.' A letter to the Yorkshire Post described his last moments: 'Lt. Lintott's end was particularly gallant. Tragically, he was killed leading his platoon of the 15th West Yorkshire Regiment, The Leeds Pals, over the top. He led his men with great dash and when hit the first time declined to take the count. Instead, he drew his revolver and called for further effort. Again he was hit but struggled on but a third shot finally bowled him over.' Lintott's body was never found, he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
John 'Jack' Borthwick played for Everton before moving to Millwall, and served in the war with the 17th Middlesex. At Delville Wood on 28th July 1916 he sustained serious head injuries and was fortunate to survive. After leaving hospital in Rouen to return to recuperate in Belmont Hospital in Liverpool, Borthwick wrote to Millwall manager Bert Lipsham to say 'I am glad to say that my wound is coming on all right, but I am afraid to say I am finished with football.' Another quote from Borthwick's letter is used on the Footballer's Battalions Memorial.
A quote from John's Borthwick's letter can be found on the Footballers' Battalions Memorial:
We were being very heavily shelled, dead and wounded all over the place, Germans as well as our own... our Captain came and gave orders for four men to take a wounded Captain (probably Acting Capt John Engleburtt) to the dressing station, and I was one to be chosen. There wasn't a whole stretcher in the place, and all the stretcher bearers were knocked out except one. We were kept busy all the time bandaging the wounded, and if they were not able to walk to the dressing station, they had to be left until someone could take them out. We got two south branches of a tree and put two waterproof sheets across them, placed the Captain on it, and then started off. The trenches were very badly knocked about and full of troops so we had to go over the top and what a journey.
We had to go three-quarters of a mile to the dressing station, and God knows how we got there with shells flying all around us, scrambling up and down shell holes and over broken tree trunks. I expected that we should all go up in the air any minute. However, we arrived all safe and I was thankful as well beat. We had an hour's rest before starting back off again. Everything was going well until I stopped my packet. I never heard the shell coming but felt it as my neck was very near set in. The piece must have been rather large and I was afraid I should be under the turf with a little wooden cross on top. I managed to get back to our trench and the stretcher-bearer dressed the wound. I lay down in the side of the trench for nearly half an hour until the shelling quieted down.
Our Captain wanted to send four men to carry me out, but I didn't fancy it so I told him I would rather walk across if he sent a man with me to see I didn't collapse. Jack Nuttall (his Millwall team mate) came with me and you ought to have seen us dashing across the wood. Donaldson couldn't have run faster (Jack Donaldson, legendary Australian sprinter in the early 20th century). I remember getting to the dressing station but I must have lost consciousness as I don't remember seeing our Doctor (Lt Richard Felton) on the trip down the line. I was operated on next day, but I remember nothing about it. I was placed on the danger list and the missus had word to come, bit I took a turn for the better. What a ward I was in, not one able to get up. We had six deaths in 24 hours and one fellow off his head. I am glad to say that my would is going on all right, but I am afraid I am finished with football.
I feel rather sorry as I am sure the army training had done me a lot of good. I was looking forward to coming home and making good. However, I must be thankful I am alive. My head has been trepanned, as the skull was knocked in. The cut extends from nearly the top of my head down too my eyebrow. It was a near thing of my losing my right eye. I left on 19 August (hospital in Rouen) and had the good fortune to get to Liverpool. This is worse than a whole season of cup ties.
Capped by England, roving inside-right Coleman's clubs included Northampton Town, Woolwich, Arsenal, Everton, Sunderland, Fulham and Nottingham Forest. 1909 while with Everton, Coleman was involved in the PFA's fight for recognition with the FA. When war broke out is professional football career ended and he joined the Footballer's Battalion. He found himself on the Western Front in the run-up to the Somme where he won the Military Medal or bravery. Known as 'the life and soul of the dressing room wherever he went.' He later became respected coach in Holland.
During the First World War, more than 900,000 women worked in munitions factories. Sport, especially football, was encouraged and many munitions factories developed their own ladies football teams. The most famous of these were Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC in Preston. Founded in 1917, their matches drew large crowds. They continued to enjoy success until women were banned from playing in Football League grounds in 1921. Matches were played between teams from different factories and in north-east England, a cup competition was established.
Eddie Latheron was one of a small group of professional players who held full England international caps to be killed in action during World War One. Eddie had been playing as a wartime guest for Blackpool as his club Blackburn Rovers had closed down temporarily from 1915-16 season. In March 1917 he was called up to the Army and by the Autumn he was a Gunner in the 73rd Battery, 5th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery which was involved in the Battle of Passschendale. On the 14th October 1917 a German shell landed in the dugout and the shrapnel flew out killing Eddie and a colleague. His Rovers' team mate Alex McGhie wrote home: 'Latheron was happy and strong and a tremendous worker, and if anybody has done his but in this war it is he.'
Fred Griffiths was a Welsh goalkeeper. Born in Presteigne, Griffiths began his career with the Blackpool-based club South Shore. He later moved south to join Millwall Athletic before moving across London to join Tottenham Hotspur, then playing in the Southern Football League. In 1901 Griffiths returned to Lancashire to join Preston North End of The Football League. He made ten league appearances for the club before once more returning to London to play for West Ham United in 1902. After retiring from playing, Griffiths trained local teams in Shirebrook before joining the British Army during World War I. He served with the 15th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), reaching the rank of sergeant. The unit had originally been raised as a bantam battalion in Nottingham in 1915. By 1917 the battalion was part of 35th Division which was thrown into the Battle of Passchendaele in October 1917. Griffiths was killed in action on 30 October 1917, along with four others of his battalion, he was aged 44.
Growing up playing for his Bethnal Green orphanage side, football was always Walter Tull's first love. He was one of the first black men to play professional football in the Football League. After success with local amateur side Clapton as an inside forward, Tull joined the 17th Middlesex when the war broke out and his leadership qualities were quickly recognised. He later received a commission and became the first black officer in the British Army. Tull was killed on the Western Front at the head of his men while trying to stem the German Spring Offensive. His body was never recovered. He was 29 years old.
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. In 1919 a group of London-based professional players, angry at the lack of concern shown towards professional footballers as they returned from the war, put forward a more militant union proposition, with traditional industrial unions becoming involved. A meeting was convened at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, with HWT Hardinge, the Arsenal and England international, presiding. Approximately 60, mainly southern, pro players formed The Professional Football Players’ and Trainers’ Union. With a threat that the FA would move against this new organisation because of its perceived militancy, Charlie Roberts, who had arrived at the meeting late from Manchester, took action. He reassured the FA that the old union would be able to continue on pre-war terms and, with the agreement of the London men, re-established the Players Union back in Manchester. At the ninth AGM, in August 1919, the membership fee was raised to 1s and the secretary, Harry Newbould, was awarded a £7 weekly wage.
Charlie Roberts was one of Manchester United's greatest captains, leading them to both their first League Championship and their first FA Cup Final win in the years before the First World War. Skilled and quick-thinking, Roberts could run 100 yards in 11 seconds at a time when the world record stood at 9.6 seconds. Roberts rarely endeared himself to the game's rulers, for example he insisted on wearing short shorts when the FA ordered that 'players should cover their knees'. He was also, of course, one of the famous 'Outcasts of 1909', who went on strike in defiance of the FA. In fact, it was Roberts who thought up the name. A photographer came to take a picture of the rebel Manchester players in training and he recalled: "Whilst the boys were being arranged, I obtained a piece of wood and wrote on it 'Outcasts Football Club 1909' and sat down with it in front of me to be photographed. The next day the photograph had a front page of a newspaper, much to our enjoyment, and the disgust of several of our enemies." When the First World War ended in November 1918, the FA allowed professional players to earn just £1 a week (15s per game and 2/6 for training twice a week!). Despite attracting massive gates, the clubs refused to pay normal wages. They also refused to honour contracts that had been torn up at the commencement of the War in 1914. The Players' Union, meanwhile, had ceased to exist in 1915, and frantic attempts were made to revive it. A meeting took place among London professionals in December 1918 and a new players' organisation was set up which demanded, among other things, a £6 a week minimum wage. It also linked itself closely with the wider Union movement, which worried football's authorities. At a conference with the Football League in January 1919, attended by players from all over the country, Charlie Roberts took charge of the players and announced that the 'old' Union was still in existence and that those representing the London clubs had unanimously decided to join with the 'Original' Players' Union. He immediately demanded a doubling of the £1 a week payment, which was granted. He then returned to Manchester as acting Chairman and set about reforming the Management Committee. Thanks to Roberts, the Union was back in business.