5 Forgotten Facts : Money In Football
Football writer, author of Behind the Curtain, Inverting the Pyramid, Anatomy of England, Nobody Ever Says Thank You and The Outsider; editor of The Blizzard.
Who was the first £1000 Footballer? Why were Sunderland once known as 'the Bank of England'? Where did Manchester United's wealth originate from? Today on the blog Jonathan Wilson shares with us 5 obscure facts about money in football.
Fact 1: The First £1000 Footballer
The first £1000 footballer was the centre-forward Alf Common, who joined Middlesbrough from Sunderland in 1905. It was the second time Sunderland had sold him. He’d played in the Sunderland side that finished second in the league in 1901 before being sold to Sheffield United for £325 that October. Three years later, though, Common wanted to return to the north-east to pursue business interests, signing for his former club along with the goalkeeper Albert Lewis for £520. Just six months later, though, and he was moving again, joining the fight to keep Middlesbrough in the First Division. He only played 38 games for Sunderland, yet they took a total of £1325 for him. The FA was so alarmed that in 1908 it set a limit of £250 for all transfers.
Fact 2: The Rise Of United's Wealth
In 1902, Newton Heath were facing bankruptcy. Desperate to save the club, they held a four-day bazaar at St James Hall in Manchester at which, among other attractions, a St Bernard dog wandered around with a collecting tin around its neck. On the final night of the bazaar, the dog escaped and was found by a small girl. Her father, John Henry Davies, thus learned of the club’s plight, and was one of four local businessmen who invested in the club, moving it to Manchester and renaming it Manchester United. Seven years later, Davies loaned United £60,000 – sixty times the world record transfer fee at the time – which funded the move to Old Trafford that was to provide the financial impetus for the club’s development into one of England’s pre-eminent clubs.
Fact 3: Not So Golden Age
The past is often spoken of as though it were a golden age, in which football remained unsullied by money, but consider the England team that beat Italy 4-0 in Turin in 1948, arguably the finest result ever achieved by the national side. The centre-half Neil Franklin soon left England to sign up for the rebel El Dorado league in Colombia, leaving the £20 a week maximum wage to sign a contract worth £5000 a year plus £35 win bonuses. The inside-left Wilf Mannion, frustrated by the retain-and-transfer system by which his club held his playing licence, went on strike to force a move from Middlesbrough to Oldham. And the centre-forward Tommy Lawton played just once more for England after accepting a move from Chelsea to Notts County, then in the Third Division. Why he went is still unclear: it may have been he wanted to work with the manager Arthur Stollery who had been a physio at Chelsea but the suspicion always remained that inducements had been offered.
Fact 4: Sunderland's Spending Spree
Having narrowly avoided relegation in 1948, Sunderland went on a decade-long spree that earned them the nickname “the Bank of England” club. Most expensive of their many signings was the Wales centre-forward Trevor Ford, bought from Aston Villa for a word record £30,000. He never gelled with Len Shackleton, who had been the club’s record signing when he’d been bought from Newcastle, though, and as bad money followed good, success proved elusive. Then, in 1957, following a tip-off from a “Mr Smith” (still unidentified), the Football Association investigated and found Sunderland had been making illegal payments to players in excess of the maximum wage. In the scandal that followed, Sunderland were relegated for the first time.
Fact 5: End of the Maximum Wage
The retain-and-transfer system was finally abolished in 1961. Players had long struggled against a quasi-feudal system but it took the doggedness of Jimmy Hill to win the battle. He took up the case of George Eastham, whose club, Newcastle, was refusing to release him despite his contract having expired. The maximum wage was abolished and so the path was cleared for the vast transfer fees and salaries on offer today.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @jonawils
He is also the editor of TheBlizzard.co.uk
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Good Article, might I add that it has something to do with the PC game, Football Manager or Championship manager (or even FIFA Manager) that has got the facts right about football. Some of the rich owners must have got their hands on these games and started to play them and now it's for real. All of the games also represent how much money is in football itself. Remember the days of Alan Shearer breaking the £45,000 per week salary and now we are talking about 250k for Eto? One for the money, two for the game, three is where all the fans loses out.