Landing at Anzac Cove

Leicester Fosse & The First World War: Football Finances

By the time league football was suspended in April 1915, eight months after the outbreak of war, football clubs were suffering badly financially, Leicester Fosse worst than most.
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Results were poor, with the Club finishing bottom-but-one of the two-division Football League, with only Glossop beneath them. Gates at Filbert Street dropped from an average of over 9,300 to one of 3,600.

In addition, the Fossils had accumulated a huge debt of £3,500 (over a third of £1M in today’s values) and owed nearly £600 in wages (about £60,000).

The Football League was concerned that Leicester Fosse might cease to exist. It reported that the Club was ‘shrouded in an atmosphere of pessimism’ and that it ‘lacked vitality and confidence. Efforts must be made to create greater local interest. There must be energy and enthusiasm, and it must commence with the Club’s officials’.   

Simon Inglis, in his book League Football 1888-1988, mentions that other clubs were also suffering badly during the first year of the War. Compared with the three pre-War seasons, takings were down by more than 50 per cent. In the Second Division, season ticket sales were down from an average of £516 to only £177.

Only Arsenal increased their receipts, largely due to their move to Highbury in 1913. 

The league was concerned that the Second Division would collapse, making 500 players unemployed. It therefore called for a cut in players’ wages, arguing that sacrifice ‘was necessary on the part of the best paid professional players, in the interests of those players whose position is precarious. The strong clubs must come to the help of the weak. There is no time for argument’.

As a result, players on the maximum wage of £5 per week (about £500) took a 15 per cent cut. This was reduced, on a sliding scale, to five per cent for those players on less than £3 per week.

The amounts deducted were then sent to the league, who used it to set up a relief fund to assist clubs who were struggling to pay their wages. Club secretaries also took a wage cut.

Other measures employed to help ailing clubs included each club donating two-and-a-half per cent of their gate money to the relief fund. In addition, the FA was asked to forfeit its five per cent cut of cup tie gates.

By April 1915, as the British, Australian and New Zealand forces (pictured above, landing on the first day of the Gallipoli campaign) were about to embark on the Turkish bloodbath at Gallipoli, the league, in a desperate and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to continue into the next season, had proposed that a player’s contract could be terminated with 28 days' notice, that a contract would be terminated immediately once a player joined the forces (although the club retained the player’s registration) and that no wages were to be paid during the close season.

By this time though, more and more players were joining the forces and railway journeys to football venues were becoming increasingly difficult due to troop movements.

A new chapter in the history of football and the First World War was about to begin.

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