7 June 1915: the media finally report football might be corrupt

On 7 June 1915 the Football League opened its enquiry into the Manchester Utd 2 Liverpool 0 match from the 1914/15 season – a game that was widely perceived to have been fixed; indeed fixed so openly that the spectacle the game offered was considered laughable.

There had been multiple allegations of match-fixing before, but the League had refused to investigate any of them, seemingly fearing that even having an enquiry would give credence to the widespread belief on the terraces that football was indeed fixed. Also, they were worried that those alleging match-fixing now had a powerful voice: Henry Norris, a director of both Fulham and Arsenal and a regular commentator on football matters in the press – and by 1915 an increasingly important person in terms of the war effort.

But when  Henry Norris had first raised the issue in 1913 in his newspaper column he had been ordered by the League never to speak or write another word about match-fixing, Now his concerns about match fixing in general and Liverpool, in particular, were about to be vindicated.

On 7 June, the League opened their enquiry into the Manchester Utd 2 Liverpool 0 match.  Undoubtedly the League hoped that this would be a little local difficulty that could be forgotten in time of war, not least because Norris himself was so clearly engaged in working for the government in terms of recruiting troops for the war effort. But the final game of the last season had become notorious and could not be ignored.

Part of the problem was that the betting companies were refusing to pay out on the result, leaving a lot of punters very angry.  Second, Lieutenant Norris, while hardly yet the major figure in the war effort he was soon to become, was now an officer in the army, and so required an extra level of respect in wartime.  And even if he was otherwise engaged that did not mean that he would not return to the 1913 affair at some stage, and the League could hardly take action against an officer serving his country who was pointing out corruption.

To rub matters in, three days after the League started considering match-fixing, on 10 June the King and Queen Mary visited the Lord Roberts’ Memorial Workshops in Britannia Road, Fulham, where disabled soldiers worked making children’s toys.  This was the second royal visit to Fulham in a very short space of time for a project Norris was centrally involved in. It made the League uneasy.

People of all positions in society were noticing that by mid-June the 177th Field Artillery had 200 recruits, whose wages Henry Norris was paying himself.  That was both quite an achievement and a generous offer, although Norris sought no publicity through this. Even the councillors of Fulham didn’t know he was doing this.  

By 30 June the 177th had recruited everyone it needed apart from the harder-to-find skilled metal workers who maintained the guns in the field.  In recognition of this, the government then asked him to raise a second artillery brigade (which he did and billeted them in Fulham Town Hall.)

On 11 July the 177th Field Artillery Brigade led by the Harry Lauder Pipe Band marched through the streets of Fulham to a concert at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.   Injured soliders were brought along as heroes.

It is no wonder in such a situation that the League felt itself cornered. It has denounced Norris as a troublemaker, and told him never to write or speak about match-fixing again, and yet now it had, on the one hand, a match that was universally considered to have been fixed to the benefit of the northern teams, and the gambling companies refusing to pay out on the match result. Meanwhile the person the League and FA had told never to speak again on the issue of match-fixing, was emerging as a hero, selflessly devoting his time and his own money to recruiting soldiers and raising funds for the injured (who the state made no provision for).