[ROGER THIS CONTINUES STRAIGHT ON FROM SL27]
Last updated: May 2008
Between Sat 2 April and mid-May 1927 J J Edwards had a meeting with Henry Norris at which he put to Norris Sutcliffe’s suggestion that Norris should retire to prevent further examination of Arsenal FC’s finances. Norris agreed.
Shortly after 7 May 1927 Henry Norris put in a claim for expenses to Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited’s offices. It covered the period from January 1926 to May 1927. It included travel to Highbury from Nice, for his trip in early April 1927; and travel to Highbury from Henley-on-Thames on various occasions; personal expenses of £17/5 shillings; and amounts to cover furniture he’d bought for the Arsenal offices, which hadn’t so far been authorised by the rest of the board of directors. Later in the year, the FA decided that these items should not be charged to his football club by a football club director.
During May J J Edwards, as Henry Norris’ solicitor in the case, continued to prepare for court action for defamation against the men from Fulham FC and garage owner J MacDermott (see April 1927 for the start of the action). On Mon 23 May 1927, as part of Norris’ case, an affidavit was sworn by Islington police chief John William Kearns, explaining his part in the sale of the Arsenal reserve team bus during July or possibly June 1926 (see my file on 1926 for what he did and the confusion over the exact date) [ROGER I NEED A LINK HERE TO SL1926].
During May 1927 player Baker, who had played in the cup final despite injury, had an operation to have his cartilage removed. Also during May 1927 Harper, the goalkeeper bought by Herbert Chapman in November 1926, was giving Chapman grief, refusing to sign with Arsenal for season 1927/28 after getting injured and losing his place to Lewis, who’d then committed such a howling error in the cup final (see 23 April 1927 above). By Wed 1 June 1927 St Ivel was reporting in the Islington Gazette that Harper was expected to go and play in the USA.
Tue 26 May 1927 J J Edwards on Henry Norris’ behalf, wrote to Charles Sutcliffe confirming that Henry Norris would resign from Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited at its AGM at the latest. On Wed 27 May 1927 Sutcliffe replied, assuring Edwards that he would let Fred Rinder know, and confirming (presumably on the Football League’s behalf) that FL investigations into Arsenal FC would cease; and they did cease, until after the 1927 investigation by the FA.
On Fri 3 June 1927 Henry Norris sold 25 shares in Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited to George Allison, editor of the match-day programme for many years as The Gunners’ Mate. 25 shares was the minimum one person could own to be eligible to stand as a director of the club; so it looks like Norris was preparing for Allison to join the Arsenal board after he himself had retired. In due course, between this date and 16 August 1927 Allison became a director of Arsenal FC.
Henry Norris was also tying up other loose ends. On Mon 13 June 1927 the Times announced that there would be a benefit match at Arsenal for their ex-coach George Hardy; see February 1927 above for his abrupt departure to Spurs. The match would be played on Wed 21 September 1927: Arsenal v the noted amateur team Corinthians. Henry Norris is the most likely person to have initiated the benefit match.
In mid-June Henry Norris’ old friend on the estate agents’ circuit, Edwin Evans, will have been told that he had got a knighthood in the birthday honours’ list. The news was published on the morning of 22 June 1927 and if he didn’t know already Norris would also have seen that the FA’s Charles Clegg had been knighted as well.
Between Fri 24 June and 27 June 1927 the Football Association Emergency Committee, which ran the day-to-day business of the FA between the meetings of its Council, agreed to a request for an investigation into the financial affairs of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited. The request, an informal one as yet, had come from William Hall; it’s not clear whether he had told Henry Norris of his intentions. On Mon 27 June 1927 the fact that there would be such an investigation was made public. Athletic News, always very well-informed on these matters, said that the request for an enquiry had been made so that people could clear their names.
On the evening of Fri 1 July 1927 Henry Norris wrote a letter to the other directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited, resigning as chairman and as a director. He had agreed to do this a few weeks before, on the recommendation of Charles Sutcliffe but hadn’t yet done so. It’s not clear to me whether he resigned on this particular day in accordance with his promise to Sutcliffe as representative of the Football League; or because of the new investigation into Arsenal FC being launched by the Football Association. He certainly felt bitter about the unexpected turn of events: in his resignation letter, he accused William Hall of siding with Herbert Chapman and against Norris himself in the row that had led to George Hardy leaving the club. He also accused Herbert Chapman of being insubordinate, and of waging a vendetta against him within the club.
On Sat 2 July 1927, during a meeting of the FA at Folkestone which had been scheduled some time before, William Hall made a formal, written application to the FA for an enquiry into Arsenal FC’s financial affairs. Henry Norris quoted Hall’s written request in full in a document prepared in February 1929, to make clear what it was that Hall wanted the FA to do three things:
1) investigate whether it was true that Norris had used the club’s money to make illegal payments to players and to pay himself back the money he’d lost in his deal with the player H A White (from 1919 - see my file Henry Norris: Players Who Came Back to Haunt Him for the details) [ROGER I SHALL NEED A LINK HERE TO SLHAUNT WHEN I’VE FINISHED IT]
2) to prove that - unlike what Norris was alleging - any money that had been taken from Arsenal’s accounts to make the illegal payments had been taken without Hall’s knowledge or consent
3) to disprove statements made recently by Harry John Peters that he (Peters) had paid money to Hall from the club’s accounts (this is the money Norris and Hall paid their chauffeurs during the period 1921-1923 or 1924 - see my file on 1921 for the setting up of this) [ROGER I NEED A LINK HERE TO SL1921].
In his formal application Hall denied any knowledge of illegal payments, if any had been made; and also of the arrangement to pay the chauffeurs.
The FA agreed to Hall’s request and chose a group of men, all members of the FA Council, to form a Commission of Inquiry into the finances of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited. The men chosen had all been members of football’s hierarchy for decades and most had had experience of this kind of investigation before. They were a tightly-knit group, most having positions at the top of the Football League as well as the Football Association; though this was an FA investigation into possible breaches of the FA rules. The members of the FA Commission were:
the recently-knighted Charles Clegg of Sheffield Wednesday, the most senior member of the FA; he would be the Commission’s chairman
John McKenna of Liverpool FC; probably one of Henry Norris’ closest friends in football; McKenna had been President of the Football League since 1910 and so ex officio a member of its management committee; he was a vice-President of the FA as well
Arthur Kingscott of Derby County, a very well-known referee; he had been the FA’s honorary treasurer since 1919 and was also on its International Selection Committee
Harry Keys of West Bromwich Albion; as a member of a family of professional soldiers, rather a cut above most football men on the social scale; another member of the Football League management committee
Arthur Hines, a referee and linesman; another member of the FL management committee; a vice-President of the FA since 1923
A J Dickinson, also of Sheffield Wednesday; and also of the FL management committee.
Keys and McKenna had the most experience of investigating member clubs’ financial documents: they had been on the committee that had presided over the winding-up of Leeds City in 1920. All were very well known to Henry Norris, of course; they were perhaps even better known to William Hall, and he to them; and the chances are they liked him more. No one at Arsenal FC had any say in who was appointed. As a member of the FA, Arsenal FC was obliged to show the FA its records and accounts, on demand.
Either the weekend of Sat 2 and Sun 3 July 1927, or immediately after it, as soon as he heard that Hall was asking for an enquiry into Arsenal FC’s finances, J J Edwards rang Charles Sutcliffe to remind him that he had agreed that there would be no more enquiries. Sutcliffe told him that there was nothing he could do, now that Hall had made an official request for an investigation. He might also have said that his promise had been made on the FL’s behalf, not on the FA’s.
Probably on Mon 4 July 1927 Henry Norris sent a letter to the newspapers, about his resignation; in it he stated his willingness to cooperate with the FA’s investigation into Arsenal; he also emphasised that despite what was happening at the club, he personally was still on good terms with the members of the board of directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited; as William Hall was no longer a director of the club, I don’t know whether or not Norris meant to include him. He may not have done. On the evening of Mon 4 July 1927 the Feltmakers’ Company held its quarterly meeting, at the Guildhall. Henry Norris and J J Edwards attended it; but William Hall didn’t.
This particular FA Commission of Inquiry followed the normal procedures for such investigations: evidence would be gathered from the club being investigated and the people associated with it; there would then be a hearing at which the FA’s representatives could question people in person and the club’s representatives would have a chance to put their case (not that that usually did them any good). On Tue 5, Wed 6 July 1927, Sat 9 July 1927 and again on Thur 14 July 1927 Fred Wall, as the FA’s secretary, was at Highbury on the FA’s behalf; going through the books and interviewing witnesses. According to Henry Norris’ account (given in 1929) of the start of the investigation it wasn’t until Thur 7 July 1927 that Wall wrote to Henry Norris on the FA’s behalf, officially confirming the appointment of an FA commission of inquiry into the club. In his letter, Wall asked Norris to prepare a statement to be heard by the FA Commission of Inquiry in his defence; see 18 July below Norris prepared this statement and I have used it extensively in my accounts of his misdemeanours on Arsenal’s behalf.
When the FA Commission was set up the date of its hearing was Fri 22 July 1927. However, around the weekend of 9-10 July 1927 the date was changed to Wed 20 July 1927. This may have been to suit William Hall, who was on holiday abroad from Thur 7 July to Mon 18 July 1927.
On Sat 9 July 1927, presumably at Fred Wall’s request, Herbert Chapman wrote a letter to Wall setting out what he knew about the £170 cheque for the Arsenal reserve team bus. According to Norris’ account in 1929, Chapman had told Wall: that Harry John Peters told him about the sale; that Chapman hadn’t told Wall that he’d taken the cheque from Peters himself and passed it on to Henry Norris (which is what Norris said happened); and that the next thing Chapman knew about the cheque was rumours in January 1927 that it had been improperly dealt with.
On Thur 14 July 1927 Fred Wall on the FA’s behalf interviewed Harry John Peters about the £170 cheque for the reserve team bus; Wall seems to have asked particularly about when the £170 was debited from Henry Norris’ own account and paid into Arsenal’s. According to Norris’ account in 1929 (he was not present at this interview either), Peters was rather vague about when he had been given Norris’ permission to debit the money from Norris’ account. Peters said September (1926); but (see above in this file) he’d not presented Norris’ authorisation to the bank until late February/early March 1927.
At 15.30 on Thur 14 July 1927 the United Grand Lodge of England held a huge meeting at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the laying of the foundation stone of its new building in Great Queen Street (the one that the freemasons still use now), the Masonic Peace Memorial. Henry Norris attended this event, as Past Grand Deacon; he did not attend another meeting of the United Grand Lodge between this occasion and his death.
Probably over the weekend of Sat 16 to Sun 17 July; it was finished and typed on Mon 18 July 1927 and a copy was sent to Fred Wall - J J Edwards, acting for Henry Norris, prepared the statement requested by Fred Wall for the FA, against the accusations that were likely to be made by the FA Commission of Investigation at the hearing due on the Wednesday. Essentially it was a personal history of his association with the club since 1910, set out as a long letter but sworn as a Statutory Declaration and so having some legal status. Whenever in previous files I’ve referred to a statement made by Norris in 1927, this is the document I’ve been meaning. A copy of it is still owned by his grand-children. As part of the preparation of Norris’ defence, on Sat 16 July 1927 J J Edwards sent to Fred Wall the note that Henry Norris had given to Harry John Peters in early July 1926, which Peters had later (much later) deposited with Arsenal’s bank (see above but the date of this isn’t certain).
In appointing Charles Clegg to be chair of the FA Commission investigating Arsenal FC, the FA members had been aware that he wasn’t well. On Mon 18 July 1927 Clegg decided that he was too ill to do the job that was required of him; and so the FA appointed another acquaintance of Henry Norris’, Charles Sutcliffe, to take his place. Henry Norris was particularly, and very noisily, annoyed about Sutcliffe’s appointment and perhaps (although he didn’t say so) about Sutcliffe’s accepting the appointment.
At 2pm on Wed 20 July 1927 the hearing of the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal FC took place, at the Royal Victoria Station Hotel, Sheffield, originally picked because it would save Charles Clegg from the need to travel. Fred Wall attended it as the FA Secretary, and took notes. All the directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited were present, with Herbert Chapman and Harry John Peters. Before it officially began Henry Norris was allowed in on his own, to present each member of the Commission with a copy of the statement prepared for him by J J Edwards over the previous weekend. The FA Commissioners told Norris that they wouldn’t accept the statement unless he allowed to be deleted some words he had had inserted to the effect that it had no legal standing. He refused to have the words deleted, so all the copies were handed back to him and he left the room.
The session included study of what Athletic News later described as “a long statement on the case”; since Norris had withdrawn his statement, I don’t know what document this was. It also took evidence from witnesses; including all the current directors of the club and possibly George Allison as well; plus Norris and Hall who of course were no longer directors; and presumably Chapman and Peters. There was no investigation of Henry Norris’ expense claims.
Normally speaking in enquiries of this kind, only one hearing was needed; however in this case the FA Commission decided at the end of it that they would have to have a second session. The date for that was fixed at Mon 8 August 1927. At some stage after this first hearing the FA issued a brief official announcement about what the FA Commission had done so far. Between 20 July and Mon 8 August 1927 Fred Wall continued to collect evidence on behalf of the FA Commission of Inquiry. He obtained affidavits from former Arsenal director Charles Crisp; Chapman’s predecessor as manager, Leslie Knighton; and ex Arsenal player Clement Voysey. And he looked further into the accounts of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited.
In the midst of all this, life tried to continue as normal at Arsenal FC. On Tue 2 August 1927 the Arsenal squad reported back to training for season 1927/28. St Ivel, in the Islington Gazette, reported that there had been very little transfer activity at the club during the close season. And that evening, Tue 2 August 1927 the AGM of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited took place as scheduled. Although he was no longer a director of the company, Henry Norris was still its largest shareholder. I think he attended the AGM, because he prevented the mass of the shareholders from putting a motion co-opting him back onto the board and making him chairman at least of this meeting; though I suppose he could have done that without actually be present. John Humble and J J Edwards were both up for re-election as directors. Both were re-elected without fuss but the directors agreed that in future all directors should be “elected by shareholders”; for the past decade at least, it had been Henry Norris’ practice to appoint directors rather than submit names to the AGM to elect them (or not). In the midst of the FA enquiry into Arsenal FC’s finances it was not possible to finish the AGM as usual; so it was adjourned until 14 days after the FA Commission of Inquiry had made its report.
On Fri 5 August 1927 the FA Commission of Inquiry sent out a letter about the cheque of 1 May 1926 to Queenborough Motor Company (sorry to keep referring you backwards but see my file on 1926 for what that was about). [ROGER I NEED A LINK TO SL26 HERE TOO]. I’m not sure who the letter was sent to; presumably everybody involved in the investigation. William Hall certainly got a copy; he told the FA Commission (I’m not sure when - possibly the same day) that it was the first he’d heard of such a cheque.
The FA’s letter may have been what caused Henry Norris to change his mind about withdrawing his own statement (the one dated 18 July 1927 see above). On Fri 5 August 1927 he wrote to Fred Wall as FA Secretary agreeing to the FA Commissioners’ request but demanding to know what gave the FA the right to investigate Arsenal’s affairs. On Sat 6 August 1927 Fred Wall replied, telling him that the FA Commission of Inquiry was operating with the authority of FA rules numbers 45 and 46. As a result of Norris’ change of stance, the words saying that the statement was not to be taken as a legal document were deleted from it, and the statement was used in evidence in the Inquiry. In his account of the investigation, given in 1929, Norris said he’d changed his mind when it began to look as though the FA Commission was going to take William Hall’s account of the payments to the chauffeurs as the true one - that is, that Hall’s chauffeur had never been paid that way - and when Norris had begun to fear that Harry John Peters would be sacked from Arsenal on the FA’s orders.
On Mon 8 August 1927 the FA Commission of Inquiry had its second hearing in the case of Arsenal FC. Again, all Arsenal’s directors attended; and so did Henry Norris and William Hall. On this occasion evidence was also heard from Herbert Chapman, Harry John Peters, Leslie Knighton and Clement Voysey. The Islington Gazette, in its report of this second hearing, suggested that other employees of Arsenal FC were interviewed too, though it didn’t name them; it would be interesting for me to know if John Edward Norris, Henry’s brother, was one of them - he was still employed at Arsenal FC, in the accounts office, at the time. Like the first hearing, this hearing did not take any evidence about Henry Norris’ expense claims for office furniture and his travel from Nice; though both were mentioned in the final report.
At the end of the session the FA made a public statement but it didn’t say much, only that the report of the FA Commission’s findings would be put before the FA Council, probably at its next scheduled meeting, due on Mon 29 August 1927. This lack of any juicy details left the press with a blank canvas on which to draw what conclusions they chose: between Mon 8 and Mon 29 August 1927 there was a furore of speculation on what the report would have in it about how Arsenal was run.
On Wed 10 August 1927 the Arsenal squad, trying to do their pre-season build-up in the midst of all the headlines, played a cricket match at the North Middlesex ground. The Millwall FC XI beat them by 30 runs. Henry Norris probably didn’t attend this; he doesn’t seem to have been a fan of cricket and in any case, he was busy. Also on Wed 10 August 1927 he wrote to the FA trying to explain that the payments to players that he had made (against the FA rules) were made with his own money from his own bank account, they were not made with Arsenal’s money.
Thur 11 August 1927 was the sixteenth annual charity cricket match between Arsenal FC and local amateur club Tufnell Park FC. Henry Norris didn’t go to the match; George Allison and Herbert Chapman were in charge of the Arsenal squad that day and made the speeches at the lunch.
On the afternoon of Sat 13 August 1927 the Arsenal squad played its first practice match, in a drizzle. Although in past years Henry Norris had attended practice matches even if he hardly went to any league fixtures, he doesn’t seem to have been at this one.
Probably over the weekend of 13-14 August 1927 (he doesn’t give an exact date) Henry Norris at least was told verbally what was going to be in the FA Commission of Inquiry’s report. William Hall was probably told as well because on Mon 15 August 1927 William Hall resigned from the Football League Management Committee, which he’d served on since the autumn of 1912. By Thur 18 August 1927 it had become known that Hall had also resigned as a member of the management committee of the London Combination; as a result he no longer had any active involvement in football management. And on Tue 16 August 1927 Henry Norris consulted lawyers - I suppose they were Rodgers Gilbert and Rodgers (see below) - about taking legal action to prevent the FA from letting the report to be published.
On the afternoon of Sat 20 August 1927 Arsenal FC held their second pre-season practice match, with a small crowd in bad weather. They tried out playing with a white ball rather than the usual brown one; but the Times reported generally negative reactions to it; Charles Buchan, for example, thought it was a gimmick. Henry Norris attended the match. After it, he spoke to the press, not about the match, nor about the football season ahead: he gave the reporters a diatribe against the Football Association and all its works and aired for the first time his belief that the FA and the Football League ought both to be replaced by a new, more competent, joint governing body for football.
By Mon 22 August 1927 speculation in the press about what had been discovered by the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal FC was at fever pitch, and more resignations from the board of directors were being widely predicted.
On Tue 23 August 1927 lawyers acting for Henry Norris made a court application for an injunction preventing the FA from publishing the report of the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal FC. The judge refused to grant the request.
On Wed 24 August 1927 the Daily Mail reported that the FA Commission of Inquiry’s report would not be published; it would be circulated only to the members of the FA Council. See below, this was quite untrue.
On Fri 26 August 1927 sent out copies of the report of the FA Commission of Inquiry to all the Arsenal directors. Henry Norris had not received his by Sun 28 August 1927. Before Mon 29 August 1927 Henry Norris and the directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited received an official letter from Fred Wall as FA Secretary, ordering them to attend the FA Council meeting due on Mon 29 August 1927, to hear the findings of the FA Commission of Inquiry. Henry Norris refused to do so.
On Sat 27 August 1927 solicitors Rogers Gilbert and Rodgers, acting for Henry Norris, sent a letter to the major newspapers warning them against publishing the FA Commission of Inquiry’s rpt, and against making any comment on it, as it was now subject of legal action. That afternoon, Sat 27 August 1927 was the first of football season 1927/28; Arsenal lost badly - as might have been expected in the midst of all the uncertainty and bad publicity.
On Sun 28 August 1927 Henry Norris received a letter from the sports editor of the Daily Mail. The letter made it clear that the Daily Mail was going to publish the FA Commission of Inquiry’s report despite the warning Rodgers Gilbert and Rodgers had sent out. The letter invited Henry Norris to make a statement on the report’s findings, which would be printed alongside the FA’s report. Norris spoke of the letter as showing clearly that the Daily Mail already knew what the report contained. Norris refused the invitation, on the grounds that publication of the report was sub judice.
3pm Mon 29 August 1927 at the FA’s offices in Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London, was the start of the meeting of the FA at which its Council members would consider the report of the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal’s financial affairs. William Hall, George Peachey and John Humble were all present; but Henry Norris was not. The report found Henry Norris and William Hall guilty of taking expenses from the club’s accounts in excess of what was permitted; it found George Peachey and John Humble guilty of not doing anything to stop them. Henry Norris felt that the report implied that he had also taken money for himself from the club’s account; though the FA as a body and individual members of the FA Commission all denied they meant it that way. The FA Commission of Inquiry recommended that their report should be forwarded to the Football League so that the FL could consider what if anything they should do about the breaches of their rules.
The FA Council accepted the report’s conclusions and its recommendations, so Norris, Hall, Humble and Peachey were all were banned from taking any further part in the management of a football club; this would mean that Humble and Peachey would have to stand down as directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited.
This is what the FA Commission of Inquiry’s report said:
* Henry Norris was guilty of paying C R Voysey a £200 signing-on fee which was against the rules of the Football League.
* it restated the findings of the 1923 investigation in Norris’ deal with H A White but made no further comment on them.
* the accounts of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited showed payments totalling £539 over the period 4 June 1921 to 5 May 1923 had been made to D Ryder, Norris’ chauffeur; and payments totalling £539 over the same period to H Denham, Hall’s chauffeur. Hall now denied the payments to Denham, but the evidence was clear.
* the Arsenal accounts showed a payment of £143/9/8 towards costs for a legal case brought by its player Rutherford. The FA Commission believed the payment was against the FL rules.
* Henry Norris had at first refused to give any information at all concerning a cheque for £125 cashed during May 1926 and payable to Queensborough Motor Company. Other directors of the club, including Hall, knew nothing about the cheque; club employees Chapman and Peters did not know of the company or its address. When the FA had demanded further information, firstly J J Edwards, acting for Norris, said that all evidence about the cheque had been lost; and then Norris told them the money was for one season’s use of his car on club business.
* a cheque for £170 originally payable to ‘Arsenal Football Club Limited’ had been endorsed as follows: ‘Arsenal Football Club Ltd, H Chapman, Secretary. Pay to the order of Lady Norris.’ The endorsement had been signed with the names of Herbert Chapman and Edith Norris. Henry Norris now admitted that all the words of the endorsement were in his hand-writing. The FA Commission would not comment further as it understood that legal action about the cheque was pending.
* the expense claim Norris put in to cover January 1926 to 7 May 1927 included items of furniture not authorised by Arsenal’s directors; and travel expenses, which the FA didn’t allow directors to claim from their club.
This is what the FA Commission of Inquiry’s report recommended be done:
* Henry Norris was to repay to Arsenal FC the £539 he had received for his chauffeur’s wages; and the £125 which he claimed were for one season’s use of his car. £664 in total. Norris was to be suspended permanently from taking any active part in football or football management.
* William Hall was to repay the £539 he received for his chauffeur’s wages. He was to be suspended sine die from taking any active part in football or football management.
* In not noticing and querying the financial transactions investigated by the FA Commission of Inquiry, George Peachey and John Humble had failed in their duty as directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company. They were not to continue as the club’s directors, nor to take any further part in its management.
* the report was to be passed to the Football League so that it could deal with the breaches of its rules.
As was indicated by their letter to Norris over the weekend, the Daily Mail had decided to publish the FA Commission of Inquiry’s report despite Henry Norris’ threats of legal action. I’m sure they had taken their own legal advice on the matter. The full report, and the punishments meted out, appeared in the Daily Mail but nowhere else, on Tue 30 August 1927 together with the text of the letter Norris’ solicitors had sent to the press the previous Saturday. Other English papers didn’t publish the report, only details of the punishments the FA had decided on; however, some details of the report made it into newspapers in France (where Norris was a frequent visitor and where he may still have had a house) and in India (where his daughter Joy was living with her husband who was now in the Indian Army).
Either on Mon 29 August or Tue 30 August 1927 Henry Norris issued a long statement justifying his actions; elaborating on what he’d said to the press after the practice match of 20 August, he accused the FA of waging a vendetta against him. Probably on Tue 30 August 1927 George Peachey also issued a statement, saying that he would be taking legal advice as he believed the FA had no power to remove him from his directorship of a limited company even though the company was a member of the FA.
Henry Norris felt that the report inferred that he had stolen money from Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited. After the report was issued Henry Norris’ immediate intention was to sue for libel the FA for making the report public.
In the period after publication of the report of the FA Commission of Inquiry, Harry John Peters came under heavy pressure (it’s not clear from whom) to choose which he was going to be loyal to: Norris, or Arsenal FC. Peters continued to work for Arsenal for another twenty years. But in 1933 Norris made him executor of his Will and trustee of his daughters’ trust fund so Peters didn’t cut all his ties to Norris.
On Thur 1 September 1927 Herbert Chapman, as secretary and manager of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited, wrote to all the shareholders announcing that the unfinished AGM of the company would resume on Fri 9 September 1927.
John Humble and George Peachey had been left in an anomalous position by the punishment meted out to them by the FA Council: they were not supposed to continue in football management, but they had not resigned as directors so they still had a duty to the shareholders. On Fri 2 September 1927 John Humble did resign as a director of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited; but George Peachey went to Highbury and attempted to attend a board meeting; according to the Fulham Chronicle’s account of the events, probably given them by Peachey, he was “forcibly excluded” from the meeting, which went ahead with the three remaining directors present: Samuel Hill-Wood, J J Edwards and the newly-appointed George Allison.
Following the confrontation at the board meeting, on Wed 7 September 1927 George Peachey began a legal action against Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited on the grounds that the FA had exceeded its powers in declaring he could no longer serve as one of the company’s directors. Having already resigned as a director, Henry Norris didn’t join with Peachey in his case. His own libel action was held up until Peachey’s more specific case was settled.
Probably during Fri 9 September 1927, at the request of the remaining directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited, Herbert Chapman wrote a letter to Henry Norris requesting that he pay back to the company the £664 wages paid to his chauffeur; as required by the report of the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal FC. It’s not clear whether the letter was put in the post, or handed to Norris later in the day. At 6pm on the evening of Fri 9 September 1927 the interrupted AGM of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited was finished off, at Arsenal’s offices in Highbury. As the only one of the surviving directors who had been at the club longer than one year, Samuel Hill-Wood had taken over as chairman of the company and he took charge of the meeting. Henry Norris attended the meeting and so did George Peachey; I should imagine John Humble went to it as well but I don’t have definite information about him; and I think William Hall didn’t go to it although he was still entitled to. Charles Crisp was also at the meeting; he was still a shareholder.
The shareholders passed a motion regretting the departure of Henry Norris and William Hall from the board, and thanking them for all they had done for the club during their years of association with it. Henry Norris made a long speech attacking Herbert Chapman.
The press had been excluded from the resumed AGM. However, a report of what had gone on at the AGM was printed in the Daily Mail on Sat 10 September 1927. Norris was furious that it was published at all as the meeting was meant to be private; but he also felt that the Mail’s report had (inevitably) exaggerated the amount of dispute that occurred. The Mail had also told its readers about the club’s request to Norris to refund the £664 the FA Report had ordered him to, without explaining the what and why of it. Norris went back to his lawyers, and began an action against the Daily Mail for the misleading impressions he felt its report had given.
However, even so placid a man as George Peachey was annoyed at the Daily Mail’s report because it gave the impression that the meeting had been a very bad-tempered affair with a lot of shouting and barracking of speakers. The resumed meeting had definitely been a tense occasion, at which Hill-Wood had to exercise his skills in mediation to the utmost to prevent Norris’ supporters amongst the shareholders from acting in such a way as to bring down the wrath of the FA further upon Arsenal’s head. And no doubt Norris’ speech made most of those present very uncomfortable, but Peachey said later that there hadn’t been any shouting.
Before February 1929 (probably autumn 1927) Norris was advised to drop his case against Daily Mail after the newspapers’ lawyers took out a summons to get the case dismissed by a legal device called ‘want of prosecution’. His libel case against MacDermott and the men from Fulham FC hadn’t been dropped at this stage; but Norris and his lawyers left it in abeyance until the outcomes of the other case had been decided. It failed too, however, (I don’t know exactly when) when it became clear that MacDermott had destroyed the cheque.
Very soon after Fri 9 September 1927 the Independent Association of Arsenal Shareholders was set up; it seems to have been founded by those shareholders who had pushed through the motion at the AGM which gave thanks to Henry Norris and William Hall.
On Tue 13 September 1927 the Football League Management Committee met for the first time since the resignation of William Hall. The members considered the report of the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal’s financial affairs; specifically the breaches of the FL rules on payments to players and on transfers. Arsenal FC was fined for these breaches; but no further action was taken against the club.
At 6pm Wed 21 September 1927 Henry Norris attended what may have been his last ever fixture at Highbury; I certainly can’t find any evidence of his having been at any Arsenal matches after this one. The occasion was the benefit match for George Hardy: Arsenal v Corinthians. Norris sat in the grandstand, next to Hardy, while the match was played. Also that evening, Wed 21 September 1927, probably clashing with the benefit match by intent, a full-length portrait of Henry Norris was unveiled in the Fulham Town Hall during a Council meeting. The portrait showed Norris in full court dress, on the occasion of his visit to Buckingham Palace (in June 1917) to receive his knighthood. Norris’ youngest daughter Nanette did the unveiling ceremony; Henry had a prior engagement of course, but Edith Norris didn’t attend the unveiling either.
On Fri 23 September 1927 the annual report of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited was published, signed by Samuel Hill-Wood, and by John Humble in what was probably Humble’s last act before he resigned as a director; Peachey was still listed as a director in the report. The FA Commission of Inquiry had not banned Peachey, Humble, Norris and Hall from owning shares in any football club, so Humble still owned his 26; William Hall owned 508, Henry Norris 487 and Edith Norris owned 5, bought in June 1927.
On Thur 6 October 1927 the Feltmakers’ Company held its main meeting of the year, at the Guildhall. J J Edwards didn’t attend it - perhaps that was a diplomatic move, because Henry Norris and William Hall both did attend. Henry Norris was made third warden, the next step up the ladder of hierarchy to the top post of Master.
On Tue 11 October 1927 Percy Boyden, a manufacturer based in Snaresbrook, north London, bought all William Hall’s 508 shares in Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited, and all the 81 shares of Hall’s daughter Elsa. This transaction ended all Hall’s links with football and as far as I know he never took any interest in the sport again. The transaction left Henry Norris as the largest shareholder in the company.
Court hearings in George Peachey’s case were indicating that he would win, that the FA couldn’t order him to be removed as the director of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited. So on Wed 19 October 1927 the FA wrote to the directors of the company threatening to expel Arsenal FC from membership if Peachey was not removed from the board of directors. Peachey’s case had established that the only way this could be done was by his shareholding being outvoted by the shareholdings of others, in a motion to force him to resign. On Fri 11 November 1927 Samuel Hill-Wood, J J Edwards and George Allison - the only remaining directors of the company - bought 500 shares each in Arsenal Football and Athletic Company; partly, it seems, to fund buying new players but also to enable any of them to outvote other big shareholders. So from this day, Fri 11 November 1927 Norris was no longer the biggest shareholder in Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited; only one of the biggest. However, he had shown no sign of using his shareholding in a manner that would have embarrassed the other shareholders; and he never did do so. He still owned at his death most of the shares he owned on this day.
On Sat 28 October 1927 Henry Norris wrote to Herbert Chapman as secretary of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company and requested permission to consult the company minute books in pursuance of his three legal cases. Chapman passed the request to the new board of directors who considered it at their next meeting, on Thur 3 November 1927. On their behalf he then replied to Norris saying that they had no objection in principle to his looking at the minute books but they wanted him to obtain an Order of Court giving him permission. Norris replied to this, saying that as a shareholder in the company he had a legal right to look at its documents. On Thur 10 November 1927 Chapman replied on the board’s behalf, saying that he was not entitled to see company documents without proving to the board’s satisfaction that he had the legal right to. The matter of access to documents Norris regarded as crucial to his case then went to solicitors, with Arthur Gilbert, for Rodgers Gilbert and Rodgers, suggesting that he and a solicitor for the FA consult Arsenal’s documents at the same time; and the FA refusing to allow Arsenal to let Rodgers Gilbert and Rodgers any access to them. By the time Norris v Football Association Ltd came to court in February 1929 Norris’ lawyers had still not gained access to Arsenal’s minute books.
On Wed 16 November 1927 Rodgers Gilbert and Rodgers replied on Norris’ behalf to the formal request by Arsenal FC for the return of the £664 chauffeur’s wages. They argued that the requirements of the report of the FA Commission of Inquiry did not constitute a legal obligation; and also that Henry Norris had not received any of the money, it had all been paid to his then chauffeur Mr Ryder. I haven’t found any evidence that Norris ever paid Arsenal Ltd that money.
Also on Wed 16 November 1927 Peachey v Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited was resolved in Peachey’s favour: the court found that the FA had exceeded their powers in attempting to remove him as a director of a company that was an FA member. Having proved his point and clarified the law on the issue, George Peachey resigned at once as a director of the company; except for George Allison he was the last of Norris’ appointees to have a connection with it. In the wake of this legal decision (but I don’t have an exact date for it) Henry Norris issued another letter, objecting to statements made during the hearing by the lawyers and the judge involved in it. Norris was angry that court hearings are privileged - no one can sue for slander or libel as a result of anything said in them. In his letter Norris reiterated his intention to use the law to have the report of the FA Commission of Inquiry set aside; and his intention to sue the FA for libel.
During 1927, by Wed 7 December 1927 at the latest Henry and Edith Norris and daughters Peggy and Nanette (neither of whom had married as yet) moved into 181 Queen’s Gate, Kensington, SW7. They lived there for about three years. This was one of the first residences associated with Henry Norris that his eldest surviving grand-child remembers visiting. She told me that it had a lift - something really hi-tec and unusual, even rather exotic, in those days.
Meanwhile, Kinnaird Park Estate Company continued to build houses and garages in Bromley, like a continuous bass melody below all the football noise in Henry Norris’ life. On Tue 20 December 1927 Bromley UDC passed KPEC’s application for 2 houses in Park Avenue Plaistow, one of which was later known (at least for a time) as Rindge.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE SOURCES OF ALL THIS INFORMATION, SEND ME AN EMAIL AND I’LL SEND YOU THE SOURCES FILE.
Copyright Sally Davis March 2008