Lord Arthur Kinnaird

Football's Pioneers: Lord Arthur Kinnaird

Club Historian John Hutchinson looks at the career of Lord Arthur Kinnaird, who established an all-time record by playing in nine FA Cup Finals.
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Arguably, Lord Kinnaird (above, right) was the most influential man in the history and development of association football. He also made an indelible mark on the history of the FA Cup. His appearances in nine FA Cup Finals between 1873 and 1883 is an all-time record

The son of a Scottish lord, Arthur was born in 1847 in Kensington. He had a privileged upbringing, going to Eton and Trinity College Cambridge before working in banking. Kinnaird’s football career coincided with the very earliest days of the Football Association.

This was formed in 1863, when it promulgated the game’s first unified code of the laws. In those pre-professional days, the main centres of association football were the public schools and the universities.

The first FA Cup Final, at Kennington Oval in front of a crowd of 2,000, was in 1872 between the Wanderers, a team of former public school pupils, and the Royal Engineers. The following year, three weeks after playing for Scotland against England, Kinnaird played for the Wanderers in the first of his nine FA Cup Finals, scoring against Oxford University in a 2-0 victory.

His performances over the next decade made him the first-ever football star. He won the FA Cup with the Wanderers in 1873, 1877 and 1878 and with the Old Etonians in 1879 and 1882. He also appeared for the Old Etonians as a runner-up in the 1875, 1876, 1881 and 1883 finals.

Kennington Oval was the venue for all of these finals, except his first one, which was held at Lillie Bridge. Crowds were between 2,000 and 6,500.

In these finals, Kinnaird, whose style of play was described in Athletic News as being ‘an exemplar of manly, robust football,’ played in a variety of positions. He even played in goal for the Wanderers in 1877 when he conceded the first-ever FA Cup Final own goal.

Strangely, though, this was expunged from the records until the 1980s. Kinnaird’s last two finals were against Blackburn Rovers and Blackburn Olympic, indicating that football was spreading from the public schools and universities to the provinces.

The football world was changing. In 1885, Kinnaird (who was the FA treasurer by this time), together with FA Secretary Charles Alcock, persuaded the FA to legalise professionalism and, in 1888, the Football League was founded by William McGregor.

Kinnaird’s influence in the game then continued in his capacity as FA President from 1890 until his death in 1923.

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