By Tony Attwood
Sometimes you have to wonder about the level of knowledge football journalists actually have about the people who pay to go into football matches (as opposed to journalists who get paid to be there, for some reason that I have never quite fathomed).
Quite why Coventry City is playing at Northampton Town’s ground when the owners of their own ground the Richo Arena are offering the club their ground free for the next year I don’t know. Perhaps there is something dodgy in the small print.
Coventry, it is said, is about to be taken over by a venture-capital fund which does not give one confidence.
The Arena is owned in part by the City council and the Alan Edward Higgs charity, set up by a family of wealthy long-standing supporters. Everyone is fighting everyone else. (Actually it is fortunate at Arsenal that the only people we have to fight is the AAA. And the Independent).
What seems to me (a complete outsider in Coventry matters, and one who simply went there in the old days to see them play Arsenal) the main thing is that the current venture capitalists put the club into administration and the administrator is about to sell the club to another venture capitalist firm owned by the first venture capitalist firm. Ah well, that’s capitalism for you.
Anyway, back to Northampton. It’s an ok stadium, with car parking, on the edge of the town, and very easy to get to from the M1 junction 15a, in case you want to know. Holds about 7,500.
It reminds me, since I co-authored the definitive book on the subject, of what happened to Arsenal in 1893. The club was playing as Royal Arsenal at the Invicta Ground in Plumstead. A group within the club who objected to the way the club was being run, teamed up with the owner of the Invicta to put up the rent to an impossible level. The aim was to bring the club to its knees so this minority group could take it over.But the men who had built Royal Arsenal and kept it going, put their money on the table by first renting, then buying the Manor Ground just across the way, leaving the rebels with an empty ground. The rebels then formed Royal Ordnance Factories FC – which played in the Southern League. Royal Arsenal became Woolwich Arsenal FC and moved into Division 2 of the Football League. ROFC fizzled out. WAFC is still with us, playing as Arsenal FC.That of course is a very quick summary of Arsenal’s start as a League club, but the whole history of Woolwich Arsenal FC is written in “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football”. It’s actually a rather jolly read.When Arsenal moved to the ground that became known as Highbury the journey of any Plumstead supporter to the new ground was 12 miles – considerably less than Coventry fans are being asked to make (although the way some critics of the move speak you’d think it was 12,000 miles).Ground moving has indeed been going on for a long time. Three years before Arsenal moved, Millwall moved from north London, six miles south to what became known as the Den. No one seemed to mind much.Both moves were further than Coventry are being asked to move, but really, these days we have public transport. And cars. And coaches.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal FC: crowd behaviour at the early matches