Lord Arthur Kinnaird

Football's Pioneers: Lord Arthur Kinnaird

In the latest edition of Football's Pioneers, in partnership with De Montfort University, Dr. Neil Carter recalls Lord Arthur Kinnaird, who was a key figure in persuading the FA to legalise professionalism in 1885.
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One of the most visible figures in the early history of association football was Arthur Fitzgerald Kinnaird (1847-1923), the eleventh Lord Kinnaird of Inchture and third Baron Kinnaird of Rossie. He was both a significant player and administrator, and his life in football was marked by the game’s transition from an amateur sport into a popular, professional one.

Kinnaird was Scottish but he spent most of his life in London. He played sport both at Eton and at Cambridge University, where he won a blue for real tennis. He later worked in his father’s bank and, in 1896, he became a director of Barclay’s Bank. Kinnaird gained a reputation as philanthropist and an evangelical Christian. He set up Homes for Working Boys, founded the Boys’ Brigade (1870) and also worked for the YWCA.

His football career was no less noteworthy, playing for both Old Etonians and the Wanderers. In 1873, he represented Scotland against England and also captained and scored for Wanderers in their victory in the second FA Cup Final against Oxford University. Overall, he played in nine FA Cup Finals, captaining the Old Etonians five times and the Wanderers twice, collecting five winners’ medals.

An adherent of ‘Muscular Christianity’, Kinnaird was renowned for his robust play. It was once said that his mother told a friend of Kinnaird’s of her fear that Arthur would one day return with a broken leg. ‘If he does, it won't be his own’, he replied.

Old Etonians’ FA Cup Final triumph over Blackburn Rovers in 1882 was his last and, to celebrate, he stood on his hands in front of the pavilion. The following year, his old boys’ team were defeated by Blackburn Olympic, signalling a power shift away from the old amateur elite. Kinnaird’s role in association football’s development, however, extended to the game’s administration.

In 1868, he had been elected to the committee of the FA and, 10 years later, was elected its treasurer.

By now, the professionals were at the gates. Kinnaird initially backed an FA anti-professional resolution in 1882. But later, along with FA secretary Charles Alcock, he realised that professionalism would not be denied and, in 1885, they persuaded the FA to legalise the practice. This gave English football that distinctive character of professionalism under amateur control which lasted until the 1960s.

It also saved football from the social and ethical rupture that rugby was to suffer in 1895. In 1890, Kinnaird became president of the FA.

While influence had shifted towards more bourgeois types, Kinnaird’s continuing presence gave the body respectability due to his social status. He retained this position until his death in 1923, 10 days after his wife had passed away.

For more information about sports history at DMU, visit www.dmu.ac.uk/sportshistory.

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