William Hall 1925-27: The Thin End of the Wedge
Last updated: July 2008
The close season at Arsenal brought several major changes to the club but perhaps the change that had the most immediate impact on William Hall was the purchase of the freehold of the land Arsenal had been leasing since 1913 plus a small plot immediately south of it. The purchase meant that Hall and Norris were finally free of the fear of their own money being taken by Arsenal’s creditors if the club got into financial difficulties. To buy the Highbury freehold the club took out a mortgage for which directors were guarantors, but more directors took part as guarantors in this financial deal so the burden didn’t fall so heavily on Hall and Norris; and in any case, the freehold of Highbury was a very satisfactory piece of collateral for the mortgagors.
In early July came the change at Arsenal that most excited the papers: the signing of Charles Buchan, the great inside-right, from Sunderland FC. But of course the change that we most remember now was the appointment of Herbert Chapman.
Herbert Chapman took a long time making up his mind to leave Huddersfield Town, lately winners of their second successive Division One title. Although Arsenal’s job advert appeared in Athletic News in early May, he did not make up his mind until 11 June 1925. And when he did, he did not come cheap. Arsenal agreed to pay him £2000 per year and bought a house in Hendon for him and his family to occupy rent-free. And Chapman made other provisoes, too, the main one being Charles Buchan - which put Henry Norris in particular in a jam. Because Charles Buchan didn’t come cheap either. Norris eventually agreed an interesting deal with Sunderland FC for Buchan - you can read about it elsewhere in these files - but it was Buchan’s own demands that were the real problem. In an account (dated 1929) of the negotiations with Buchan during June 1925, Norris names Hall as present at the first of two meetings with the player, at which Buchan said that if he came to London he’d expect to be compensated for a loss of income in his sports retail business in Sunderland. The first suggestion was that Norris and Hall should buy Buchan’s business. However, Buchan wouldn’t agree to that, so there was a second meeting at which Buchan accepted an offer to pay him £250 per year of his contract in half-yearly instalments. Norris says that Chapman was present at that second meeting; he doesn’t say that Hall was. However Norris does say that Hall knew what certain payments by Arsenal FC of £125 were really for: paying a professional player more than the maximum wage allowed.
In the hope of Chapman agreeing to take the manager’s job, Henry Norris opened negotiations for Buchan with Sunderland FC at the Football Association’s AGM on 8 June 1925. The Football League’s AGM took place on the same day, as usual, and nothing of any particular importance happened at it.
When the annual report of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company was published in August 1925 it showed that the club had made a profit of £1622. It didn’t include the purchase of the freehold at Highbury so the club’s assets and the amount it owed were small - ‘sundry creditors’ were owed £8351, the overdraft was down to only £470. Through his buying up of small numbers of shares William Hall had now amassed a holding of 388; his daughter Elsa Kate now had 81 in her own right - she could have stood for election to the board if she’d wanted to! I’d love to know whether she went to the AGM.
Compared to the firing and hiring and gaining of the freehold that went on in the summer of 1925, the fact that the FA refused to register Arsenal’s Jock Rutherford as a player was small beer. He could not play while the FA investigated whether he was being paid for use of his name by a betting syndicate; and this took until early 1926. Rutherford had to go to court to clear his name, incurring legal costs he couldn’t afford. During the autumn of 1925 the board of Arsenal FC agreed to pay the difference between Rutherford’s costs and the amount of damages he was eventually awarded. This was criticised by the FA in 1927, but all the directors of Arsenal FC agreed to it at the time and stood by their decision in 1927.
Another small happening with big consequences also happened in June 1925: Tom Whitaker received a career-ending injury while playing for England on an FA tour of Australia. In December 1926 the directors of Arsenal published in a match-day programme their opinion that Whitaker had been meanly treated by the FA in the period following his injury, which had led to his having to retire as a player. The exchange of comments that followed, between the FA and Arsenal, was conducted for the club by Henry Norris but again, all the directors backed the stance he took.
Perhaps I can say here, too, that although unlike Norris he did not put resolutions to the effect on the agenda for Football League AGMs, Hall did agree with Norris’ strong wish to have a top limit on transfer fees. That is to say that Norris said Hall agreed, when writing about his life in football in 1927; Hall doesn’t seem to have made any public statement on the matter after first becoming a management committee member in 1912. When during season 1923/24 the FL management committee investigated the current state of transfer fees at Norris’ request, including carrying out a survey of all the FL members, Hall seems to have acquiesced in the decision the management committee reached, that capping transfer fees would be unworkable and the great majority of the members didn’t want a top limit to be specified in the rules. Hall did leave it to Charles Sutcliffe, though, to explain it all to Norris when Norris pressed the issue at the AGM of 1924.
A big summer in football, then, with huge excitement in north London as Chapman began his tenure in season 1925/26, a season of extraordinary results after a change in the offside law.
There were other things in life for William Hall however. The Feltmakers’ Company held its main meeting of the year on Thursday 1 October 1925. Henry Norris was elected fourth warden for the coming twelve months: the lowest rung on a four-year climb to being made Master of the company. And Hall was appointed to the committee of four which oversaw the yearly auditing of the Company’s accounts, and involved an afternoon spent at the auditors’ offices at Arundel House in the Strand, followed by dinner for all involved. The audit this year was carried out on Thursday 17 December 1925; by which time Arsenal were in unknown territory - top of the league.
Again at Chapman’s insistence Arsenal made another big purchase during the season 1925/26,
signing goalkeeper Harper from Hibernian in November 1925. But with just those two important new players, Chapman took Knighton’s also-rans to second place in Division One (behind his old club Huddersfield Town). The final home game of the season, Arsenal 3 Birmingham City 0, was played on Saturday 1 May 1926 in an atmosphere of huge enthusiasm after Arsenal’s best season under Norris and Hall’s rule. Arthur Bourke, summing up the season in the Islington Daily Gazette, heaped praise on all the club’s directors for appointing Chapman. It’s not clear from his account whether any or all of the directors actually saw the match.
I think that by the end of that first Chapman season, Hall had been won over; that’s not to say that he’d ever had any doubts, but I think that - this is quite to hard to explain but I’m thinking of it as I’m writing, as sets of two. When Chapman arrived at Arsenal, Henry Norris and William Hall were a set of two, running the club without much hindrance, and in agreement, at least publically, on most things both at club and at national level. By summer 1926, however, because of Chapman’s arrival and his brilliant first season in charge, Hall and Norris were moving apart. However unintentionally (and I’ll discuss that in another file), the wedge of Herbert Chapman had been inserted between them and they no longer thought the same on one issue of overwhelming importance at Arsenal. And so Norris’ three-act tragedy began to unfold.
The AGM of the Football League took place at the Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden on Monday 7 June 1926; Hall was one of three management committee members having to seek re-election that year, all were returned unopposed. Hall took charge of a new departure, the presentation of a cup to Reading FC as champions of the FL Division Three South. It may have been Hall’s idea to start awarding trophies to the lower divisions, to calm some uppity behaviour manifested by some of their clubs during that year’s FA Cup, fed up with being so much ignored in comparison with divisions one and two. Another change in the established pattern of things that year was that Herbert Chapman seems to have been Arsenal FC’s representative at the AGM this year, rather than Norris.
There is a photograph of the FL management committee from 1926 or 1927 in Matthew Taylor’s The Leaguers. It was taken at a meeting of the committee with all the members around a big table. Hall was sitting between Charles Sutcliffe and Tom Barcroft of Blackpool FC. Just like in the one taken in 1907, William Hall was the smallest man in the photograph! And although the fashion for moustaches had passed, Hall still kept his. His hair is white, and thin, and unlike in the earlier photograph he’s wearing glasses; but although the two photographs were taken 20 years apart, Hall seems to have weathered those years relatively well.
Once season 1925/1926 was over, Herbert Chapman suggested to William Hall that the club sell the bus which the reserve team had been using to travel to its London Combination fixtures. Why approach Hall rather than Norris? Probably because Norris wasn’t around as he often wasn’t, he was in the south of France or at Henley; but possibly because Chapman found Hall the most approachable of the two - Hall, with his reputation for geniality and working well in committees. According to Norris’ account, given in 1927, Hall took some persuading that selling the bus was a good idea, but eventually he agreed and mentioned it to Norris who also was dubious about it but said that Chapman might as well have his way. By the end of May, after some bargaining with the prospective buyer, Hall had agreed a price of £100 for the bus; but when he told Norris about the deal, Norris said he didn’t think that £100 was enough. The two men had - was it a row? Or a difference of opinion such is likely to arise in any enterprise from to time? It may have verged on a row because according to Norris it ended with Hall saying something which Norris quoted in 1927 and which seems very untrue to the character people who knew Hall ascribed to him: “You can do as you like with it as far as I am concerned. Chop it up for firewood for ought I care.” I’ve said elsewhere that such an impatient and annoyed response from Hall might have been natural in him but I don’t think so. It might just have been a natural reaction to having his negotiations for the sale of the bus go to waste. But it might also be that wedge which I’ve mentioned above, as if Hall was thinking that Norris didn’t like the deal because to sell the bus had been Chapman’s idea not his own. Anyway, the upshot of their conversation was that Hall washed his hands of the whole affair and didn’t hear anything more about it until the following year. Norris took over the sale of the bus and did get a better price for it a month later: £170, paid by a Mr MacDermott who owned a garage on Upper Street - the £170 for the reserve team bus that I have had to mention so often in my life of Henry Norris.
The annual report of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company was published in early July 1926 and showed the freehold property now owned by the club for the first time: that at Highbury, worth £48019 but bought on a mortgage of £40000; and the house at Hendon worth £3819 but bought on a mortgage of £3410. Buy the piecemeal buying of shares in the club during the past financial year William Hall had increased his holding to 414; Elsa Kate still had her 81, she hadn’t bought any more in the last twelve months.
For the first time in several years Hall missed the most important meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company year, on Thursday 7 October 1926. It must just have been a clash of engagements, or illness, however, as he was present on 17 December 1926 at Arundel House in the Strand to supervise the Company’s annual audit.
Hall was still an active member of the committee which ran the London Combination. In December 1926, the Islington Gazette reported that he was intending to have a cup made to be presented each year to its champions, part of his work to raise the Combination’s profile; it was a mere detail that the best team in the London Combination over the 1920s was Arsenal’s reserves! Possibly as a result of Hall’s hard work as an ambassador for the Combination, it had expanded during the 1920s so that the reserve teams of clubs as far away as Cardiff City took part in it.
During the winter of 1926-27 there was another flu epidemic.
On Saturday 8 January 1927 Arsenal’s run to the FA Cup final began with a third-round win at Sheffield United, 2-3. William Hall, Samuel Hill-Wood, George Peachey and John Humble went with the Arsenal squad to Bramall Lane; and after the win, which was something of a surprise, caught the 5.30pm train back to London with them. New director J J Edwards was ill, probably with flu, and didn’t see the match that day. I don’t know exactly when Edwards joined the board of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company but I think you can describe him as an acquaintance of both William Hall and Henry Norris, though Norris had known him longer. Edith Norris was also ill at the beginning of 1927 and her illness seems to have been more serious than flu; Henry Norris stayed at home with her, missing the FA Cup third round and, indeed, every other round except the final.
The minutes of the meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company held on Monday 10 January 1927 noted several absentees through illness, including J J Edwards. William Hall called on those who were able to attend to express their concern about Edith Norris’ illness and to wish her a speedy recovery; Henry Norris was at the meeting, and thanked them all for their concern. So relations between Hall and Norris were cordial - friendly even - at this point, just as they had apparently been since Hall first got involved with Fulham FC more than 20 years before.
Norris was still at his wife’ bedside (as he described it) on the day of the FA Cup fourth round, Saturday 29 January 1927. Port Vale 2 Arsenal 2 saw Charles Buchan get his 250th goal in first-class football; but Arsenal were lucky to get away with a last-minute equaliser. I don’t know which of the Arsenal directors went to this match; but in Norris’ absence, Hall as vice-chairman should have gone to it. He did go to the replay, on Wednesday 2 February 1927 to see the team scraping through to the next round, 1-0. I hope Hall saw the goal. He may have been down in the dressing-room at the time, mediating between Chapman and George Hardy. Ostensibly the dispute was about who gave orders to the team from the touch-line during the game; but the seeds of it went back to Chapman’s arrival in 1925 when he soon decided that Hardy didn’t have the coaching skills Chapman required from his first-team trainer but was told by Henry Norris that Hardy must keep his job. The argument between Chapman and Hardy during this FA Cup replay got so bitter and loud that Hall and Hill-Wood were summoned from the directors’ box to try to make peace. In Norris’ continuing absence, Hall as vice-chairman took the decision to leave it to Chapman to resolve the situation as he saw fit: which Chapman did, by demoting Hardy. Phoning Norris later to relay details of the match, neither Hall nor Chapman thought it necessary to mention the dispute and its sequel, so it was not until Saturday 5 February 1927 that Norris found out about it, when it was mentioned to him by Chapman as Norris travelled with the squad to the away game at Liverpool. Norris was very annoyed about what had happened. He told Chapman, in no uncertain terms, that in demoting Hardy he had exceeded his powers as manager; the most Chapman was allowed to do in Norris’ eyes was refer the question of Hardy to the board of directors for a decision. When writing about the incident in 1929, however, Norris doesn’t say how he felt about William Hall’s part in the dispute: essentially siding with Chapman against Hardy who had been at the club so very long.
Chapman’s response to this dressing-down by Norris was defiant: on Monday 7 February 1927 he promoted Tom Whitaker into Hardy’s old job.
By Monday 7 February 1927, Chapman had found out what had happened to the £170 cheque for the reserve team bus: that in July 1926 Norris had gone off on holiday with the cheque in his pocket-book, rather than letting it be paid into Arsenal FC’s bank account; that he had endorsed it with Chapman’s signature as authorisation for Edith Norris to pay it into her bank account; that the cheque had been seen by an employee of Fulham FC who had recognised Norris’ hand-writing on it; and that the £170 had still not been paid to Arsenal. All this Chapman told to William Hall at some stage during the next few days; and if Hall had not believed him - which he might well not have done, it was that weird a set of coincidences - Chapman had probably shown him the photograph he’d had taken of the endorsed cheque. This conversation may have taken place on Wednesday 9 February 1927 when Hall made three more of the piecemeal share purchases that had been going on for several years now, probably going to Arsenal’s offices to do the paperwork.
Hall’s first reaction was to go to Fulham FC to question the men there that knew about the cheque: John Dean, now chairman of Fulham FC, was an old acquaintance, of course, and Hall will also have known as a player employee at Arsenal, Edward Liddell, who’d first seen the cheque. Perhaps Hall was hoping to hear that there had been some mistake, or even that it was a rather bizarre practical joke. Instead he heard corroboration of what he’d been told by Chapman.
Hall may have taken a few days to decide what to do. Where only a month before, all had seemed peaceful and positive between him and Henry Norris, there were now two big bones of contention for Hall to consider: what had been done (and not done) with the £170 cheque; and the implications for Hall of Norris’ reprimand to Chapman on how he had dealt with George Hardy. On Sunday 13 February 1927, the day before the next board meeting, Hall telephoned Henry Norris and said that he had something serious to tell him which he wanted to do face to face; so they met.
The only accounts of this meeting that were made were written by Henry Norris; unless he talked about them to the FA in August 1927 William Hall never gave any details of what went on; he never mentioned them to the press. Norris’ accounts concentrated on what the two men had said about the £170 cheque for the reserve team bus: that Hall had told him about what had happened to it, and advised him to resign as a director of Arsenal in order to avoid the football authorities undertaking an enquiry into the cheque; and that Norris told Hall that he would do no such thing, and that he would sue John Dean and his employees at Fulham FC for what they had been saying.
In a letter written by Norris on 1 July 1927, however, and again in a document written for the FA in July 1927, Norris states that during this face-to-face meeting, he and Hall talked about more than just the cheque. The subject of Chapman’s row with Hardy was also raised and Norris made it plain how far he disagreed with Hall’s decision to let Chapman sort it out. Norris’ two accounts don’t say at what point during their exchanges Hall resigned as a director of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company. However, they both agree that Hall resigned because Norris opposed the decision Hall made as vice-chairman when he was called to resolve the row. By the end of the meeting Hall must have felt his position at Arsenal FC was untenable: Norris was questioning Hall’s authority as vice-chairman, and refusing to take Hall’s advice on a resigning - possibly even a criminal - issue.
At the scheduled board meeting on Monday 14 February 1927 both subjects were discussed again. Hall not only refused to reconsider his decision to resign, he also made it clear to the other directors that his resignation was not because of what had happened to the cheque for the reserve team bus: the implicit - perhaps explicit - refusal by Henry Norris to endorse his decision in the row between Chapman and Hardy had weighed with Hall more. I don’t know whether Hall attended any more board meetings; presumably not. But he said that for the sake of the team, he would keep his resignation secret until their FA Cup run had ended. He did not resign from his posts on the FL management committee and the executive committee of the London Combination; nor was he asked to resign from them by anyone at Arsenal or at either of those two organisations.
At some stage after the board meeting, but probably before the weekend of 28-29 March 1927, Henry Norris and William Hall had one more private meeting, at which Norris - well, again the only account of this is Norris’ own and of course he’s not going to say of himself that he threatened another person, but if Hall took what Norris said as a threat, then I don’t blame him: in talking about what might happen if the football authorities were told about the £170 cheque and investigated Arsenal’s finances, Norris (as he put it) reminded Hall about the arrangement by which their chauffeurs had been paid for two years as Arsenal employees and (as he put it) warned him that any investigation into Arsenal would be bound to find it out.
Whatever reply Norris expected Hall to make to what he’d said, it certainly wasn’t the one he got: Norris was staggered when Hall response to this was to deny vehemently that his chauffeur had ever been paid by Arsenal. Writing about it two years later, Norris still sounds bewildered, even stunned, that Hall could deny it despite all the evidence there was for it, that Hall could easily have found in Arsenal FC’s financial records, and even in the records of his own bank account. It’s amazing to me too. It’s as if Hall had wiped the whole affair - which was spread over two years - from his mind, perhaps because after it was ended by Leslie Knighton’s intervention, he had felt uncomfortable about his part in it.
This meeting seems to have been the last between the two men, who had known each other and been colleagues in football at least since 1904. They parted on such terrible terms that Norris felt he could not ask for Hall’s help and evidence in the cases he later brought against the Football Association; and Hall came to believe that Norris was capable of doing what was implied by the £170 cheque - taking money from Arsenal for his own benefit.
Hall was no longer a director of Arsenal FC but there was nothing to stop him continuing to go to Arsenal’s matches; until he made his resignation public he may even have gone through the motions of attending matches as a director. But I don’t know how many more games he did see. The next step forward in the FA Cup was Arsenal 2 Liverpool 0 on Saturday 19 February 1927; Arsenal were installed as favourites to win the Cup, in view, the Times said, of “the curious character of the remaining opposition”, meaning that there were no clubs from the north of England left in the competition. In the FA Cup quarter-finals Arsenal were drawn at home again, to Wolverhampton Wanderers who hadn’t yet conceded a goal in the competition. In a very open game on Saturday 5 March 1927, Wolves scored first and missed an easy chance to go 0-2 up, but Arsenal won 2-1.
It had been a long time since Arsenal had got so far in the FA Cup: longer than William Hall and Henry Norris had been at the club. The semi-final was on Saturday 26 March 1927 at Stamford Bridge: Arsenal 2 Southampton 1, a rather dull game in which, according to the Times, Southampton seemed to expect to lose even before Arsenal took the lead. It was Hulme’s match - he scored the first at 28 minutes, and generally ran the show; Buchan got the second in a match he didn’t dominate as much as he usually dominated matches. William Hall did see the game but he was there for a particular purpose: when it was finished he made public his resignation as a director, saying that it had nothing to do with any legal cases that might come after, it was solely because of differences that had arisen with the chairman about club policy. That is to say, he’d resigned over Chapman and Hardy; not over the £170 cheque. Hall mentioned how long he and Norris had run the club and said he was “exceedingly sorry” to be going.
Comments in the press in the days that followed were very complimentary towards Hall; but that was the custom of the time. The Athletic News described Hall as “kindly and courteous” and said that there was “no more popular man in the South of England as far as football is concerned”. Athletic News seems to have guessed, if not known, that something was up with Arsenal FC because it added, rather anxiously, that from what it knew of Hall’s character he would never have chosen to resign for a reason that wasn’t serious. It thought Hall would be “undoubtedly a serious loss” to the club and one which was likely to cause a lot of awkward questions at its next AGM. The Islington Gazette was also concerned about the implications of Hall’s departure. Its football reporter spoke of the sensation it had caused as “rather greater” than that of the resignation of Charles Crisp, as if he had a feeling that the two were somehow connected. He worried that the resignation of a second person “of high standing in the game” would be a loss to Arsenal that it would be difficult for the club to overcome.
Hall was no longer a director of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company when two fellow members of the FL management committee spent the weekend of 2-3 April 1927 at Arsenal, investigating whether what they’d heard about the £170 cheque was true. He had nothing to do with their arrival - it was something, after all, that in February he’d been doing his best to avoid. Their investigation caused Henry Norris to return post-haste from the south of France. After the match on Saturday 2 April he made a statement describing as “unfortunate” the timing and the manner in which Hall had made his resignation public, and stating his resentment at the way he himself had been portrayed in the press as the villain of the piece. Like Hall, he didn’t go into the details of why they had quarrelled, but he did say, “there are six directors on the Arsenal board. Mr Hall is silent on the views of the others” - implying Hall was in a minority of one on the matter in question; and certainly no other director ever made a statement of any sort on the Chapman/Hardy issue, so Norris may have been correct on this, Hall was the only one who sided with Chapman. I point out, however, that the board of directors (with or without Hall) never countermanded officially Chapman’s demotion of George Hardy, and that Chapman’s job as manager doesn’t ever seem to have been under threat, except from Henry Norris.
Although he had not attended any of the FA Cup run until the FA Cup final, on Saturday 23 April 1927 it was Henry Norris that led Arsenal out at Wembley. At the end of the game, it was Samuel Hill-Wood and John Humble who - for the first time in each case, I think - spoke on Arsenal’s behalf to the press after their defeat to a freak goal caused by a god-awful goal-keeping error. None of the coverage mentioned William Hall as having been at the game; even though Arsenal lost it in such a ghastly manner I hope he was there for football’s biggest contemporary occasion.
William Hall was still a member of the FL management committee; but even if he had not been, he might have been told about the visit of two of its members to Arsenal’s offices. So perhaps he knew about what happened next: that Charles Sutcliffe had, through J J Edwards, persuaded Henry Norris to resign as a director of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company, promising him that if he did so, the Football League would not investigate Arsenal FC’s financial records any further. But maybe Hall didn’t know about that deal; or perhaps Norris’ resignation wasn’t enough for him; because at the end of June, William Hall approached the Football Association and asked them to do an investigation of Arsenal’s finances. News of Hall’s request was published in the Athletic News on Monday 27 June 1927. In a last-ditch attempt to head off the football authorities, Henry Norris resigned as director of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company on Friday 1 July 1927, but he was too late, Hall’s mind was made up.
Hall had been asked by the FA to make his informal, verbal request formal by putting it in writing. He did so on 2 July 1927 in a letter which Henry Norris’ lawyers quoted in full in a document written in 1929. Hall’s letter was addressed to both the FA and the FL management committee and said that he was asking for an investigation of two particular things. The first was whether Henry Norris had taken money from Arsenal to recoup the money that he had loaned to player H A White and not been able to recover following the FL’s hearing (in 1923) into White’s transfers in and out of Arsenal. The second was whether it was true what Arsenal FC’s employee Harry John Peters had been saying, that he (Peters) had paid money to William Hall in cash and by depositing amounts in Hall’s bank account. About these payments (which were for his chauffeur’s wages) he now wrote, “The whole of the statements made [by Peters] I deny”. Clearly, Hall still didn’t believe what Norris had told him during their last conversation and expected that an investigation of Arsenal’s finances would exonerate him.
Hall probably attended the FL management committee meeting scheduled for Friday 1 July 1927, which dealt mostly with appeals from players about the transfer fees being asked for by their clubs - typical close season fare. If he was there, it was the last he attended.
Possibly with the intention of avoiding meeting Henry Norris at this very delicate time, Hall didn’t attend the meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company held on Monday 4 July 1927; Norris and J J Edwards both did attend it. Hall went on holiday on Thursday 7 April 1927, to somewhere in Europe (he didn’t say where in his letter) and returned on 18 July.
After three weeks in which Fred Wall, as the FA’s agent, went through through the records in Arsenal’s offices, the FA Commission held its first hearing on Wednesday 20 July 1927 at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Sheffield. At first, Norris had not co-operated with the investigation; but as time went past he began to worry that unless he gave his version of events, the members of the FA Commission - which included John McKenna and later Charles Sutcliffe of the FL management committee - would seek to exonerate Hall from all wrong-doing, at his (Norris’) expense. So he wrote a long account of his doings since he and Hall took over at Arsenal, and took it to the first hearing.
Norris found the enquiry infuriating and offensive. Hall made no public statement of his feelings but it can’t have been a pleasant experience for him to have all his dealings with Arsenal’s finances being scrutinised and being questioned by his acquaintances in the FA, and by John McKenna and Charles Sutcliffe whom he knew so well by now. In Islington Gazette’s article on the causes of the investigation, on Wednesday 27 July 1927, the writer didn’t mention Hall as having attended the hearing on 20 July although Norris and all the currently serving directors of Arsenal FC had done so. Though he was entitled to do so, as a shareholder, Hall doesn’t seem to have gone to the AGM of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company either. With impeccable bad timing this took place in the middle of the information-gathering phase of the Inquiry, on Tuesday 2 August 1927.
Hall did attend the second hearing of the FA Commission of Inquiry, at the FA’s offices in Russell Square on Monday 8 August 1927. Herbert Chapman, Harry John Peters and Leslie Knighton were interviewed at this hearing; they hadn’t attended the first one. What was said, especially by Peters and Knighton, at this second hearing might have warned Hall that he was not going to come safely through the investigation. The FA Commission were enquiring further about a cheque drawn on Arsenal FC for £125 in May 1926 which Norris confessed (in 1929) had been paid to Charles Buchan, against the FL rules; Norris said that the cheque had been signed for Arsenal by Chapman and Hall in full knowledge of what it was to be used for. The FA Commission was also hearing evidence on the cash payment to Voysey, which Hall had taken such trouble (in 1919) to remain in official ignorance of.
The following weekend, 13-14 August 1927, Hall, Norris and all the other Arsenal directors were telephoned and given an outline of what the FA Commission’s conclusions were. Hall will have learned that despite all his denials, the story of Arsenal money being paid into his bank account and handed to him in cash was true. On Monday 15 August 1927, William Hall resigned from the FL management committee. Later that week he resigned as well from the committee of the London Combination.
A written copy of the FA Commission of Inquiry’s Report was sent to all interested persons at the end of week commencing 22 August 1927. Hall will also have received a curt letter from Fred Wall ordering him to attend the next FA Council meeting to hear his punishment in person. Unlike Henry Norris, who boycotted the event, William Hall did go to the FA’s offices at 3pm on Monday 29 August 1927 though he already knew his fate: he was banned sine die from taking any part in the management of a football club - not actually as bad a punishment as Norris was given, but bad enough, very bad, and a sad ending to Hall’s career in football’s hierarchy. Like Norris, he was ordered to repay to Arsenal FC the £539 paid to his chauffeur during the period 4 June 1921 to 4 May 1923. The following day, the Report was published, verbatim, in the Daily Mail so that all the football-reading public could find out exactly who had done what at Arsenal FC and how they were going to pay for it.
Henry Norris was almost more furious about the publication of the Report than he had been about the enquiry. Already involved in legal action for defamation against John Dean chairman of Fulham FC and two of his staff members, he began a legal case against the FA for allowing it to be published. Norris also made a long statement to the press defending the actions the FA Commission had criticised and found against the rules. George Peachey, banned by the FA from continuing as an Arsenal director, also made a short statement to the press. Hall, however, took his punishment quietly, making no public complaint. He didn’t attend the resumed AGM of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company on Friday 9 September so he won’t have heard about the resolution passed by the other shareholders thanking him and Norris for all they’d done for the club; but then again, he won’t have heard Norris’ speech to the meeting which was an attack on Herbert Chapman. Shortly after this, however, he will have got the same letter as Norris received from Arsenal FC, a request for repayment of the money that had been paid as their chauffeur’s wages. Norris refused to pay; nothing was said about Hall having done the same, so I imagine he did pay up.
As far as I know, although he was still allowed to do so, William Hall never attended an Arsenal game after the end of season 1926/27; I can’t find any record of him being present at any of the great occasions during the remainder of Chapman’s reign at the club. However, he went further than just not going to matches. The annual report of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company, issued rather belatedly on 23 September 1927, shows Hall still owning 508 shares and daughter Elsa Kate still owning 81. However, on Tuesday 11 October 1927 William and Elsa Kate Hall sold all those shares to Percy Boyden of 210 Hollybush Hill Snaresbrook, who then sold 518 of them to Samuel Hill-Wood and George Allison, still directors of Arsenal FC. By that transaction, William Hall cut his links with football completely.
[ROGER SLHALL6 FOLLOWS IMMEDIATELY AFTER THIS ONE]
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Copyright Sally Davis July 2008