The FA Cup Scandal

The scheduling of the 1901 FA Cup Final replay causes uproar in Liverpool.

Tony Onslow 27/11/2013 29comments  |  Jump to last

When the 1901 FA Cup Final, played between Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur, ended in a draw, it caused repercussions that rocked the City of Liverpool to its very foundations. The game had taken place at Crystal Palace in London where the FA committee, the previous evening, had decided that should the match end all square then the replay would take place at Goodison Park in Liverpool. The deputation from Liverpool FC, who was present at the meeting, later made a protest.

They informed the committee that the replay clashed with their home game against Nottingham Forest and, if they staged the game in Liverpool, it would severely affect their gate money. The FA committee accepted the protest and decided to move the game to Burnden Park in Bolton. This decision, when it hit the streets of Liverpool, caused mayhem.

The business community was up in arms at the news of the cancellation, claiming the action of the Liverpool club was detrimental to the local economy and a deluge of protest letters began to flood into the offices of all the Liverpool newspapers. These objections, which poured in for days, were finally collected together by the Liverpool Review (now defunct) which published the following article that explained to their readers, who were not football fans, just how much the game had altered since its formation in 1863. It was also very critical of the actions implemented by the Liverpool club.

Football, at one time, was considered a sport, and its adherents were entitled to be called sportsmen. But the introduction of professionalism in to the pursuit of the game has changed all that. It is now a business (with a capital B) and its promoters are businessmen. We have known for some time but never fully relished it until last Saturday. Then it was brought home to us in all its sordid reality. We learnt then that the football business, like most other businesses only more so that there is no such thing as reciprocity or patriotic sentiment, or consideration for other people's interests. None of these matters must be allowed to weigh in the football business against the interests of Number One. When Football was a sport, and footballers were sportsmen, it would have been considered chivalrous for one club to go out of its way to assist another; today it is the right and proper thing (for have we not had newspapers correspondents supporting it?) for one club to go out of its way to deal a left handed blow to another, rather than suffer the slightest financial risk to affect the sacred constitution of Number One

It is the Liverpool Football Club which has assisted us towards the realisation of these unpalatable facts. This Saturday the best English Cup Final in football history is to be played at Bolton. It might have been played in Liverpool, on the Everton Club's ground at Goodison Park, but for the Liverpool Football Club. When the directors of the Liverpool Football Club heard that the FA had decided to re-play the tie at Everton, what was the first thought that occurred to them? the pleasure the match would give to thousands of Liverpolitans? the very substantial profit that would accrue to the city at large from the consequent influx of hordes of excursionists, each with half a guinea or so to spend? the value of such a match recruiting agency to local football patronage? or the financial advantage it would be to their fellow club across the park? A good sport would undoubtedly have considered these things, but, bless you, the Liverpool Football Club could lay claim to a more exalted title than good sports they can lay claim to be considered Business Men.

Therefore, as Business Men, the first idea that occurred to them was how the playing of a football match in Liverpool would affect their particular Precious Purse capitals again if you please Mr Printer in fact the history of the whole miserable affair deserves to be printed in capitals on the Liverpool Football Club flag. Therefore as Business Men and not as good sports, the Liverpool Football Club directors promptly protested against the playing of the match in Liverpool. The club, you see, had a match of their own to play that day, and from their point of view (from the top of the office safe) the Liverpool footballing community had no right to exist that day except to patronise their match and their match alone. A detrimental influence like bad weather they could tolerate with equanimity, but an opposite attraction they could not and would not stomach. Their finances would stand a bad weather gate without a quiver, but a bad gate brought about by a counter-attraction would be calculated to break the bank. Consequently the Liverpool Club were determined that the English Cup Final should be kept out of Liverpool, and kept out of Liverpool it is. Can you imagine the sportsmen of Anfield grinning across to their professional brethren at Goodison and chuckling, with their pockets buttoned down, Weve bested you this time, old boys. For football, bear in mind, is a business not a sport.

The Liverpool public, however, had a word to say. To their credit, they could not stand by in cold blood and see the reputation of a beloved one-time sport dragged through the mire. Letters of protest poured in to the newspaper offices in shoals, and even the editors had an indignant word to utter. Liverpool rose to the occasion, and garnished the transaction with a series of the choicest adjectives available. A superficial examination of the newspaper correspondence reveals the depth of public feeling on the subject.

Witness these extracts
It is enough to make all Liverpool weep.
"It is the greatest shame that they should have the power.
A Shylock-like trick.
It is scarcely conceivable that the opportunity of witnessing the English Cup Final in Liverpool, should be deliberately thrown away."

From the tone of these communications, it must be seen that, from the point of view of the public generally, we are justified in stigmatising the actions of the Liverpool club in this matter as a scandal. The average footballer, who possesses a copious and expressive vocabulary, has been using much stronger language. The affair is all the more aggravating because an expert consideration of all the possibilities goes to show that the Liverpool Club would have been benefited rather than injured in playing the final here.

The time of the match at Anfield might have been altered so as to not clash with that of the match at Goodison and the result would probably have been that more spectators, instead of fewer, would have been attracted to the Liverpool ground. We have known two league matches in Liverpool in one afternoon, and both finely attended, and there is no reason why this should not happen again, especially with the additional community to draw upon created by the enormous influx of outside footballers who would have invaded the city for the Cup Final. Moreover, Liverpool might have earned golden prestige, instead of reaping ignominy, over this opportunity, had they gone the right way about it.

Suppose they said to the FA and the public: We are glad the Liverpool public are to have this treat, and we dont want to spoil it, although we could if we liked. Let the match go to Goodison by all means, but dont forget to pop in to good old Anfield when its all over. The effect of that attitude would have weighed with the football public like solid gold. But, then, the Liverpool Football Club directors are not diplomats as they are Business Men.

The match at Anfield attracted a crowd of 20,000 people and the Liverpool directorate, it must be assumed, were happy at the outcome. Their happiness however was not shared by the FA committee over at Bolton. There, just 20,400 watched a match that was a financial disaster for the both organisers and the local economy. The game became known as the Pork Pie Final because of the amount of food that went to waste owing to the small number of visitors who came to Bolton. Meanwhile, over in Liverpool, things slowly got back to normal and the great Cup Final Scandal vanished into local folklore.

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Reader Comments (29)

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Terry Murphy
1 Posted 27/11/2013 at 23:55:09
I knew there must be a historical reason for why I hate the RS so much. Thank you for making my dislike a little more rational.
John Keating
2 Posted 28/11/2013 at 02:29:57
just goes to show that nothings changed since at least 1901
Anto Byrne
3 Posted 28/11/2013 at 05:17:04
Spurs won 3-1 they were a non-league outfit at the time. The gate at Crystal Palace was 110,000. Another interesting fact was this game was filmed by Pathe another first for football at the time:

Peter Mills
4 Posted 28/11/2013 at 06:08:29
"Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" as the French or Del Boy might say.

I always assumed their arrogance, their blindness to anything other than their own interests, had developed during the 1960s when they came from obscurity to win the top domestic trophies, and then went on to success in Europe in the 70s and 80s. From McDermott pissing on nurses from the top of a bus, through the air-brushing of Heysel from their history, their shameless (successful) pursuit of getting into the Champion's League when they had no entitlement, to their defence of one of the most repugnant footballers we have ever seen, they have consistently considered only what is helpful to their own ends.

Thanks, Tony, for showing that the malaise runs deep. Bitter? No, just observant.

Derek Thomas
5 Posted 28/11/2013 at 06:37:54
Another cracking blast from the past, Tony. Then as now (I also thought it started in the late '60s)... RS: you always get exactly what it says on the tin.
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
7 Posted 28/11/2013 at 06:53:33
That's a on old old gem, Tony. Probably well hidden and long forgotten. I've never seen this story cited anywhere.

Two side issues (beyond from the obvious):

Liverpolitans? I cannot ever remember hearing that as kid... it was always Liverpudlians. Apparently the first is earlier, while the second developed as an offshoot of self-deprecating scouse humour (pool... puddle)

● Business Men Many still bemoan the transition of our current game into big business, forgetting that clubs became commercial entities in the late 19th Century.... yet it was even then a derogatory thing.

Fantastic stuff... keep 'em coming!

Anto Byrne
8 Posted 28/11/2013 at 07:15:53
I'm an Everpolitan.
Simon Lloyd
9 Posted 28/11/2013 at 08:27:31
Thank you for posting that Tony. It seems the press felt able to properly criticise them lot back in those days.

I see that some things never change, I still make sure I have half a guinea to spend when I go the match!

Eugene Ruane
10 Posted 28/11/2013 at 08:55:35
Another fantastic piece Tony, never heard of 'The Pork Pie Final'.

As for their behaviour, it seems 'Outraged by everything, ashamed of nothing' was bang on the money even back then.

We should take a couple of banners to the derby at their place.



(with our finances, BK might be interested in pursuing that second one, specially if you add the interest).

Peter Mills
11 Posted 28/11/2013 at 09:10:55
Didn 't Dalglish have a pork pie moment when a home game was called off at short notice because the opposition were unable to get to the match? The Moaningest Minnie of them all whined for days about it, even about the number of pies that had been wasted.
Paul Wharton
12 Posted 28/11/2013 at 10:07:55
That's why Holding was booted out of Everton FC and stayed on at Anfield , he was the Hicks & Gillete of the day.
Rob Dolby
13 Posted 28/11/2013 at 09:48:02
Great read, Tony... keep them coming if you can unearth anymore.

I had heard of the Pork Pie Fnal but didn't know what it was about.

I remember going to FA Cup games when both teams had been drawn at home probably late '70s.

Barry Rathbone
14 Posted 28/11/2013 at 10:28:01
Hammered them 3-1 in the the next Goodison derby putting them right in their place confirmed by relegation the following year - classless no marks.
Chris Williamson
15 Posted 28/11/2013 at 10:35:16
No class - even then.

Classic Eugene - I'd love to hear the commentators musing over those signs.

James Lauwervine
16 Posted 28/11/2013 at 13:29:13
This is history gold! Thanks Tony, I knew nothing whatsoever about this. I'll be keeping it up my sleeve now though for the next time an RS irritates me.
David Starsky
17 Posted 28/11/2013 at 16:52:07
Excellent piece Tony,
Really enjoyed it !
We all know reds don't understand why we don't like them - this helps to explain.

But WYSIATI, so before we hammer the reds, lets understand that there are some mitigating facts though - I am sure you are aware of.
Firstly, the reason the attendance was so low was in part due to the station at Bolton refurb and no cheap train fares for the Southerners to obtain.
Secondly, LFC were playing their last home game of the season on that day, besides their one game in hand, to equal the points total of Sunderland, who had finished their fixtures at the top of the league. After going on a great run following their defeat to Everton !
And the reds went on to win their first Championship - A FULL TEN YEARS AFTER WE WON OUR FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP !!

But why let facts get in the way of a great story - we ARE Liverpolitans, and we know our History.


Mick Davies
18 Posted 28/11/2013 at 22:05:16
Sorry if I offend anyone here but I can't find any reason to criticise LFC over this attitude. The dickheads who are in charge of our national sport are as usual culpable once again for their lack of foresight, ie, not even checking the fucking fixture list.

Not exactly advanced algebra to work out that a top-level game would be taking place less than a mile away, with the added chaos and extra policing etc.

This business claim over a century ago makes me laugh though; the gobshites in charge were the 'business men' making a fortune while the fans were taken for granted. Nothing's changed

Mark Boulle
19 Posted 28/11/2013 at 22:27:56
Fantastic stuff and a great read, cheers Tony. As a linguist myself, I love some of the archaic written English: "the consequent influx of hordes of excursionists with half a guinea or so to spend"; "their finances would stand a bad weather gate without a quiver".

Probably in a very small minority here, but for my money it would be so much better if newspapers and newsreaders still used language like that - the way we express ourselves now is not, to use a footballing analogy, fit to lace the boots of early 20th century English!

As for LFC's stance in all this, is anybody really surprised?!

Eugene Ruane
20 Posted 28/11/2013 at 23:09:59
Mark Boulle (786), the language used really reminds me of that used in (the HBO series) Deadwood.
Mark Boulle
21 Posted 28/11/2013 at 23:16:29
Not seen it Eugene but if that's the case I clearly need to get on box set duty!
Eugene Ruane
22 Posted 28/11/2013 at 23:33:14
Mark, a soupon for your perusal, delivered by the sly, self-serving and inately devious E B Farnum.

In fact so slippery, devious and yet ultimately hopeless, he might be described as 'Kenwrightesque'...

Denis Byrne
23 Posted 29/11/2013 at 10:22:36
To be certain, indeed if confirmation is required, that E B Farnham is a born and bred blue nose with all the trappings of regal melancholy ... "Not for us apparently, the placid harbour, on which voyages, near complete, to bob and rock, bob and rock, becalmed. For us, to the very end, the dizzying surges of the storm, and its crashing descents.".
Tony I'Anson
24 Posted 29/11/2013 at 17:54:54
"garnished the transaction with a series of the choicest adjectives available" [TRANSLATION] - Letters to the Echo.

"The average footballer, who possesses a copious and expressive vocabulary" [TRANSLATION] - Media Trained millionaires.

Michael, didn't the Heseltine Leahy report of 2011 refer to the "Liverpolitan Diaspora"

Tony Onslow
25 Posted 29/11/2013 at 17:44:43
Eugene. Nice idea about the banners-Who ate all the pies, well it was no one from Liverpool that's for sure. (Slogans please lads.)

It is true that many of the newspapers blamed the railways this was not the case. The station in question Trinity Street was on the L&Y system and had, strangely, no direct link with Sheffield. The company would have needed permission from the Midland Railway to run excursions from Sheffield.

The London fans , who just failed to turn up, would have travelled on the L&NW system and this would have brought them in to Great Moor Street in Bolton. The work going on at Trinity Street would not have affected them.

The venue was unpopular with both clubs who asked for the game to be transferred to Villa. The FA insisted on playing the game in Bolton.

Burnden Park which opened in 1895, was a decent ground but was now where near as good as the "state of the arts" home of New Brighton Tower. Why on earth did the FA not think of staging the game there?

David Donnellan
26 Posted 29/11/2013 at 18:19:16
What a brilliant piece! I was totally unaware of this story. Just shows that there is a long history of fans being taken for mugs!

Thats what I always jokingly say to one of my RS supporting friends, We're a football club, they are a business.

Neil Madden
27 Posted 29/11/2013 at 18:38:40
Re. the word Liverpolitan, it is the correct adjective to use and one that is coming back into fashion. I believe there was a magazine of the same name many years ago (but also was told its politics were rabidly right-wing). Anyone know any more?

Was the word Liverpudlian not coined by the London press in the century before last? ie it is a puddle not even a pool. Seems like even then the capital liked to put us down.

I like the word Liverpolitan; it doesn't have any association with you know who. Let's use it more.

Darren Hind
28 Posted 29/11/2013 at 21:41:02
If you know your history . . .well I know a bit more now.

Thanks Tony

Tony Onslow
29 Posted 29/11/2013 at 22:16:26
You're welcome, Darren.
Michael Winstanley
30 Posted 01/12/2013 at 18:02:18
Great read. Cheers Tony.

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