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Is a new Arsenal club being born? Actually, probably not.

By Tony Attwood

If you create a magazine which boasts that it is the “New Home of Football Writing” then all it needs to be is a little bit better than the football journalism that exists elsewhere.  Which you might well think is not that difficult, given the lunatic inaccuracies that we see and hear daily in football journalism.

And it is on this basis (a lack of inaccuracies) that we come to examine the Athletic’s exclusive: “Disgruntled Arsenal fans to launch breakaway phoenix club based in Surrey – Dial Square FC”

OK, that looks interesting except within seconds we are told that, “Dial Square is a reference to the Arsenal Football Club’s original name, coined by the Woolwich munitions workers who founded the club in south-east London in 1886. They competed as Dial Square until 1893, when they were renamed as Woolwich Arsenal.”

Now this is not a bit of history that is hard to find and get right.  Apart from a vast array of books which cover Arsenal’s history, it so happens that Arsenal has one of the most detailed online write-ups of its early history of any club.  (Not necessarily “the most” because Everton have done a sensational job on their history, but we’re not too far behind).

The Arsenal History Society has been through every detail of the early history of the club, seeking to prove that the old tales about playing the first game on the Isle of Dogs, and what happened thereafter, were all true.  It is all online as I say, and also in the books “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” and “Royal Arsenal Champions of the South”.

The simple fact is that Dial Square played one football match, after which at a meeting in early January 1887 it was voted to open up the club not just to employees of the Dial Square factory, but to the employees of all of the Royal Arsenal armaments factories.  At the same time the name of the club was changed, meaning Arsenal only played one match as Dial Square.  (They were actually Dial Square Cricket Club, but we’ll let that point pass).

Of course this could appear to be a bit of trivial detail – but The Athletic is proclaiming itself as the publication that transforms football writing, tearing down the old approach of haphazard half-truths, downright lies and a total lack of research, and replacing it with something that is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, true.

The story begins, “Arsenal fans dissatisfied with the club’s direction may soon have an alternative to consider: Dial Square FC.    The Athletic understands that the new football club, which was incorporated earlier this month, aims to participate in next season’s Combined Counties Football League — the ninth tier of English football, and the same division where AFC Wimbledon entered upon being formed in 2002.”

Note that – “The Athletic understands….”  Not “has been told and accepted with blind faith” but “understands.”  It implies the use of the brain.

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The Athletic proclaims itself as the New World of Journalism (not in those terms, but that is what it amounts to) so when it gets a very fundamental wrong in an article, one wonders.  Have they got any more fact-checking than I have?   Certainly, they ought to have since a) they charge for reading and b) they proclaim themselves to be important.

So no, Arsenal have had a series of names, and the shortest-lived of all of them was Dial Square – just one match on a mud heap on the Isle of Dogs against Eastern Wanderers.  And yes, we have proof from the media of the day that this game did take place because the result was reported in the weekly newspaper “The Referee”.   The Woolwich Gazette then reported on 7 January 1887 that sometime between 1 December 1886 and 5 January 1887 a meeting was held to widen the club to everyone in the area, and this club effectively broke away from the Dial Square Cricket Club and became Royal Arsenal Association Football Club.   On 8 January 1887: Royal Arsenal (as opposed to Dial Square FC) played their first game – against Erith on Plumstead Common.  Arsenal won 6-1, part of an opening sequence of three matches in which the club scored 23 goals. See also here.

After that the club changed its name it was Royal Arsenal until 1893, then Woolwich Arsenal, then The Arsenal, then Arsenal.

Now the man behind this lack of knowledge is apparently a “lifelong Arsenal fan Stuart Morgan, one of many supporters who has grown disenchanted by events at the club since Stan Kroenke’s KSE took full ownership. Now it seems some are ready to strike out independently.”

And that sentence makes the cock-up of the very foundation and fundamentals of his venture seem a bit silly.  So as the article continues “Fan discontent reached its peak in the summer of 2019, when several supporters groups joined forces to launch the #WeCareDoYou campaign. A spokesperson for the campaign explained: “There’s been a steady disconnect for a lot of fans. It stems from a range of things — from when football went all-ticket and all-seater, to the change of our badge, to moving from Highbury, to higher ticket prices, and to games being constantly moved for TV. For many fans, having a majority shareholder (now owner) who is rarely in the country let alone at games, and who has never really engaged with fans, was the final straw.”

Except that the WeCareDoYou campaign was somewhat undermined by the fact that the level of club connection with those fans groups that don’t actually criticise the club in public regularly has been maintained – as it was in the “100 Years in the First Division” celebration at Islington Town Hall, which included fans, ex-players and club directors all mingling together in the same meeting.

In fact what the publication is doing is highlighting the work of Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, and ignoring the work of other groups such as Arsenal Independent Supporters Association.   And that is a bit silly because AST became something of a laughing stock when in ran two articles in which its accountant “analysed” two different sets of Arsenal accounts and “discovered” that in the first set of accounts Arsenal had secretly and illegally set aside money for the directors to award to themselves, and in the second set had only set a budget of £40m for transfers.   The first case of fraudulently moving money secretly from the club to the directors was never proven, and no evidence was presented, the second was denounced by directors at a supporters meeting before the start of the current season.  Arsenal then went on and spent £130m.  AST has, to my knowledge, never apologised for its misleading statements and defamation of Arsenal directors.  The Inland Revenue has chosen not to investigate the alleged misdemeanours.

So the connection between the AST campaigns and the current league position is made, without any thought that actually there might be other factors at work – such as the ceaseless negativity of AST, and that other bunch of negativists, AFTV, and the journalists such as those in the Athletic who put a constant negative spin on Arsenal stories (as they have with this bit of trivia).

The founders of New Dial Square (if I may call the new club that) “explained” to The Athletic “This Arsenal team — the club, the set-up, the stadium — is nothing like it was in its heyday. It’s so commercialised… I sit in club level. It’s soulless, it’s lifeless… it’s not Arsenal Football Club. The reason I wanted to do this project is to go back to beginning, to try and get back to that original Arsenal.”

Well yes, I can understand about Club Level and agree.   But it represents something like 0.3% of the seats in the ground.  I sit directly above club level, and the atmosphere is fine.

The new club will start in north London but aim to move to Woolwich – perhaps in the mistaken belief that Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal, The Arsenal or Arsenal actually played in Woolwich.  But none did.  Another little cock-up.

The club was known as Woolwich Arsenal because it valued its identity as the works team of the Royal Arsenal based at Woolwich and could not call itself “Royal” because it was a limited company.  Woolwich Arsenal played at Plumstead, and then for its final season under that name, at Highbury.  Again, a very basic bit of history that can be looked up in a trice.

Then there is an interesting claim. “Back in 1886, the club’s first ever games were played in a dark red kit.”   Is that right?  I’d love to know the source of that claim, because there are lot of claims around.  We know the picture that Arsenal used to justify the change of shirt colour for the final season at Highbury was artificially coloured in, and not an actual photo.  So where do they get their facts?

The badge they have chosen makes reference to the Royal Oak pub where (the Athletic’s article claims) “the current club’s identity was conceived.”   That is not at all clear.  We know that Soar and Tyler suggest that a meeting on 25 December 1886 was held at the Royal Oak to change the name of the club to Royal Arsenal but there is no real evidence for this, and the name was in any case not changed then. So maybe, maybe not.

So, it’s not a very accurate start for the new venture, and I rather suspect this lack of historic dedication my come to haunt this recently invented club.  And The Athletic.

29 comments to Is a new Arsenal club being born? Actually, probably not.

  • Chris

    Well, as far as I am concerned, this is great news.

    UA ought to publicise this Dial Square FC to all and sundry.
    And encourage the disgruntled masses to join that club and leave AFC.
    They ought to be encourage to buy into the club, get into management and put their excellent opinions and expertise into facts running that new club.
    And AFC ought to subvention the move of said supporters. Buy advertising space at the stadium.

  • Bernard

    I’ve just searched the register at Companies House, Tony, that shows:
    Dial Square Football Club Limited was incorporated on 7.1.20.
    It has one director, Stuart Douglas Morgan, aged 39, from Camberley (Surrey).
    It has an issued share capital of £100, of which Stuart Morgan holds 51 shares and Edgar Frederick Hill, also of Camberley, holds 49 shares.

    If Stuart Morgan was The Athletic’s informant, as to the history of The Arsenal, the dissatisfaction of our supporters and their determination to form a breakaway club, he appears to have been plugging himself/his new business with the assistance of The Athletic.

    As far as I can remember, AFC Wimbledon was set up by a large group of supporters (because their club had been sold off and exported to Milton Keynes) through a public limited company, with the supporters all buying shares and with nobody having a controlling shareholding, rather than the private limited company used by Stuart Morgan.

  • Martin O’Donnell

    Renurscitur is latin for resurrection to go along with their phoenix in the flames analogy. Its not Arsenal that has died in the flames its the love and support of these halfwits!

    Also the sundial in that badge bears no resemblance to that which adorned the gates at Dial Square. Its a vertical sundial mounted on the gate arch not a horizontal sundial. Trust me, these things I know. If you are going to create a badge at least get the details right. Morons!

  • Nitram

    Seems to me all The Athletic has done is join the throng of media outlets simply peddling either negative or piss taking articles about Arsenal, because that’s what the media do.

    Admittedly by making people pay for the privilege of reading this drivel they have taken the art of taking the piss to another level, but taking the piss is all it is.

  • Liverpool have made 11 (eleven) changes in team selection for their FA cup match today. Could you imagine the ‘disrespecting the FA cup’ media crap Arsenal would get if they were ever to do such a thing.
    I wonder if Liverpool will get the same criticism we would surely get.

  • Nitram

    Mick shelley

    Wonder no more my friend. Of course they wont.

  • the New Dial Square will be gone in a trice.

  • Nitram

    Liverpool have just given away a penalty. The attacker was through 1 on 1 with the keeper directly in front of goal.

    Only a yellow.

    Why?

    Perhaps those that were so quick to come on here and confirm with such certainty the validity of Luiz’s red can explain.

  • Steve Vallins

    Fulham also had a player sent off for giving away a penalty , didn’t see the Shrewsbury Liverpool game so was it a different type of foul where you don’t get sent off or a I love Liverpool referee helped by VAR

  • John L

    The Fulham player seemed to be the victim of the “double jeopardy principle being ignored, just as in David Luiz’ case. As noted, this interpretation of rules evidently does not apply to Liverpool players.

  • Menace

    OT watching the highlights of CP v Ars and was quite shocked to see the fourth official scowl (with venom) at Arteta when he queried why a throw in was given to Palace instead of an obvious foul to Arsenal. It was also shocking to see Ayew kicking out at Toreira in the first few minutes of the game and not get a yellow. The kicking went on all game if I remember right and the player stayed on the pitch.

  • Menace

    Few minutes after Auba scores, Andy Townsend ‘players doing their jobs playing against the Arsenal’ following a clear kicking of Torreira for the second time. The obvious lack of yellow cards is an absolute scandal.

  • Menace

    Watching the game on TV live, I missed so many incidents. The highlights are making my blood boil!!! The official Atwell, I believe was a truly corrupt bastard. How our management can allow such officiating to go withot taking the PGMOL & the EPL to task is beyond me.

  • Chris

    @Menace,

    absolutely my point…maybe fans ought to start pressuring management for action ?

  • Nitram

    Chris & Menace

    How do you know if they haven’t already raised issues behind closed doors?

    How do you know if that hasn’t actually made things worse?

    And as for raising these issues on an open forum, unless you have the media on your side, which we all know we clearly haven’t, all it will lead to is derision and ridicule, and most likely fines, points deductions etc. etc.

    I know it’s all very frustrating but I honestly don’t know what the club can do.

  • Chris

    @Nitram,

    Frankly, I have no idea. fact is that, if there is some hidden agenda, some secret contract, some source of power that rules the PL, then, like it has happened in other cases, just bringing it to full light is the only way to quash it. If that exists, then you can bet your a…. that this is criminal in some form or another considering the billions that are involved only in gambling. I’m not even going to mention EU competition law, US anti-trust laws, etc.

    And from what we know, the whistelblower usually gets by better then the others.

    Would Arsenal be hung out to dry, kicked out of the Premier League, or whatever if they were to come out and prove that there is a full manipulation going on, that they were kept by some sort of contract so secret that it must be illegal ?

    Again, this silence, this utter lack of transparcency, the numbers and statistical results that just don’t add up, the similarities with calciopoli, this all points in the direction of something that is not right.

    Add to that, on a societal level, the total disrespect or should I say contempt football fans are getting treated with – just look at the catastrophies that happened in the 80s and 90s and how they were handled by the press, the politicians, the people in charge, the justice system. Just listen to the endless shows where the talking (brainless)heads are just taking the watchers or listeners for idiots, just read the press coverage day in day out, watch a game and be critical about what is shown, this all gives a picture of an elite just raking in the money and not caring about it’s customers but just manipulating them. At some point, if Arsenal do not react, then they are part of the system. And maybe they are waiting for the comitee to decide which PL title they will win when… there must be some voting mecanism like among the multiple owners of a condo ?

    The picture you get when you add all these elements together is not a nice one.

    Something is rotten…..if it swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, what is it ?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Well , well, well ! Somebody finally did go and do it ! They can now equivocally claim that they have finally their an Arsenal in their own image . Congrats !

    All that is left is to get financing , a place to play ,a squad of players, a manager , coaches and trainers etc. And probably a new and catchy nickname .

    Am sure there are millions of disgruntled former Arsenal fans who are likewise willing to invest in this noble endeavour . Good luck to you lot.

    In the meantime the rest of us will continue to follow the fortunes of THE ARSENAL.
    Up the Gunners !

  • Em

    @ Nitram & Chris,
    I completely agree that Arsenal Management and a very senior Arsenal supporter is complaining very vigorously to the dissatisfaction of the powers that what to hold Arsenal back, that they the FA have made the following referee appointment for our game tonight as prove they don’t give a f*ck to what is being said.

    Mon 27th Jan 2020 The Emirates FA Cup referee appointments

    AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal
    Referee: Martin Atkinson
    Assistant Referees: Lee Betts & Adam Nunn
    Fourth Official: Simon Hooper
    VAR: Mike Dean
    AVAR: Marc Perry

    Once again, Arsenal get Martin Atkinson and Mike Dean combination for their game against another British/English Manager (Eddie Howe). Why is that? Arsenal must be a problem child that requires very special care and handling that the same officials are repeatedly assigned to referee (managed) them.

    This is going to be the 5th time Martin Atkinson has refereed our games. His record to date is; Refereed: 4 matches, Fourth official: 1 Match, VAR: 1 Match

    We also once again get Mike Dean involved in our game even though so far we have seen him 5 times in our games to date. Refereed: 4 matches, VAR: 1 Match

    The last time we saw the 2 (Mike Dean & Martin Atkinson) tagged team together (for another British/English Manager – Chris Wilder) was not even a month ago, it was just;

    Sat 18 January 2020
    Arsenal V Sheffield United (1-1 D)
    Referee: Mike Dean
    Fourth official: Lee Mason.
    VAR: Martin Atkinson

    Our next game after the FA cup game is a premier league away game on 2nd February against another British/English Manager (Sean Dyche – Burnley) I expect to see us loss key players in the Bournemouth FA cup game that would mean they miss the Burnley game.

    Auba did not finish game against Roy Hodgson, did not play against, Chris Wilder, Frank Lampard & Eddie Howe.
    Luiz did not finish game against Frank Lampard and will not be playing against Eddie Howe.

    Both players missed game for RED card offence which would not have been given for any players of the 3 English manager mentioned. There is a clear pattern as to what is going on, what is very worrying is that the pattern is being replicated 22 times in the premier league against Arsenal FC.

    11 (11 x 2) being the number of British managers currently managing in the league this season.

  • Nitram

    “….that they, the FA, have made the following referee appointment for our game tonight as prove they don’t give a f*ck to what is being said.”

    Exactly

    In an article by Tony and I some weeks back, the piece made the suggestion that perhaps Arsenals public intimations, (made at the time by Freddie, Adrian Clark and the Arsenal.com lads. Coincidence?), that perhaps we should not be so naïve and start rotational fouling ourselves, similar to what our opponents do to us, was a hint to referees and VAR alike to look a little closer at what’s happening, has, if anything, made things worse.

    The comments were made after the Man City match and it would not surprise me one bit if the figures showed our fouls to cards ratio had got even worse, and our opponents better since they were made.

    PGMOL, the referees and the media all know the statistics as much as we do, and they are just how they like them to be.

    As for why. Well that’s the big question.

    Me personally, as I have said many times, think it’s simply down to the medias dislike of Arsenal. No more, no less.

    From the 70’s refrain of ‘Lucky Lucky’ Arsenal to the 80’s refrain of ‘Boring Boring’ Arsenal and Highbury the library.

    These were not just random short term insults but concerted attacks aimed at undermining Arsenal as a club and their achievements.

    Yes they may win things but when they do they are either lucky or boring. Nothing to be admired.

    The media detest us.

    I believe Tony, via the Arsenal History site, has highlighted more distant historical examples of the medias hatred of Arsenal.

    And it is this media dislike of Arsenal that drives the anti Arsenal narrative that permeates all aspects of the game including how we are officiated.

    I do not believe it’s anything to do with gambling or corruption in the accepted sense, but simply the PGMOL and the referees following the desires of who are ultimately their judge jury and executioners, the media.

  • Steve Vallins

    I do believe AW did complain about referees a while back , the result of that complaint was a 4-4 draw at Newcastle and most supporters should know what happened in that game .
    Barton got away with everything Diaby was sent off plus two(2) really dodgy penalties this was after we were leading 4-0 at halftime

  • Gord

    OT: Womens Football

    In the news today, was a headline purporting to be an investigation into womens football in England. Is it professional? Do the players make enough money to live? Daily Mail was the source of this article.

    So, I clicked on the link.

    It was maybe half of an introduction. It was not a complete article.

    I suspect the answer is that many (most?) womens teams that are supposed to be professional (by title), are not professional in fact.

  • Chris

    @Steve,

    I remember that game. I rememebr at the beginning of the second half I believe, a horrendous foul that should have sent the Newcastle player directly to jail, yet was not punished, can’t remember who was targeted and if he stayed on. The violence was such that you could feel from that moment on the Arsenal team get scared – this was a young team. They lost their resolve in one on ones and we even were lucky to survive a tie. No idea if there are replays visible on Youtube, but I vividly remember that game. Can’t remember who was the jail guard in charge of refereeing

  • Nitram

    Steve Vallins and Chris

    Feb 2011. Referee Phil Dowd.

    Just googled it and it’s all over the place. Not because of the incidents you’ve highlighted but because it was the greatest comeback in Premier league history apparently.

    Read the BBC report. No mention of the horrendous foul. The penalties were of course perfectly justified, as was Diabys sending off.

    All standard fair when reporting Arsenal.

    It seems like Dowd was saying, if you thought Old Trafford was bad, just look at this. This is what we can do to you when we really want to.

    I must admit I have never watched it. I just cannot bring myself to do so.

  • Gord

    2011/02/11:15:00 Phil Dowd Referee

    Barton Goal 68′ (pen.), 83′ (pen.)
    Nolan Yellow card 70′
    Best Goal 75′
    Tioté Goal 87′
    José Enrique Yellow card 90+4′

    Goal 1′ Walcott
    Goal 3′ Djourou
    Goal 10′, 26′ Van Persie
    Red card 50′ Diaby
    Yellow card 69′ Szczęsny
    Yellow card 82′ Sagna
    Yellow card 82′ Eboué

  • Steve Vallins

    @ Nitram
    I didn’t realise that Newcastle game was so long ago seems like yesterday in my mind

  • Nitram

    I have a very vague memory that we actually scored a late 5th goal ruled out for offside.

    Or is that just my brain playing a sadistic game with me?

  • Steve Vallins

    What we are seeing with the way we are refereed is no different now as it was then regarding the Newcastle game .
    I’m sure Walter did a match report and if you can be bothered go through the comments nothing has changed , we tend to win in spite of the officials .

  • Lima

    Tony you say the Athletic article is full of errors but fail to convince that that is the case. Let us look at a few points you make;
    1. The name of the club being dial square FC. It sounds from your argument that it is true, and your grouse is just that the name only lasted for one match. If that is the case, it doesn’t matter if it were for half a match, it was a former name for the club, period. The second issue with this is, to prove your case you refer to your own work as evidence. I’m sorry that cannot pass. You cannot quote yourself as a source to corroborate your argument in a logical debate.
    2. The athletic writes that a LOT of arsenal fans feel a disconnect and uses the we care, do you campaign as evidence. You argue with that stating that the club celebrated 100years with AISA. How does that negate the fact that a lot of fans feel disconnected with the club? It is your write up which doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The club celebrating with AISA and co doesn’t even prove AISA members don’t feel disconnected, how much more the others that weren’t invited to the party.
    3. You claim AST’s position should not be given weight because AST became a laughing stock following “we care, do you?”. What is your evidence to this assertion? I can bet AST is still the most recognised arsenal fan group, their status may even have soared in the summer. You have made an argument to discredit them about the summer, however that is just what it is, an argument. You have not even proven that one other arsenal fan group has joined your campaign, not to talk of the many others. 16groups signed the “we care, do you” how many have signed any document calling them out?
    You have simply put your unfounded assertions forward as facts and claimed what you have no facts to corroborate. Could it be a strategy to ride on the back of the athletic to gain some publicity for untold?
    Ps: a link to the athletic article would be appreciated

  • Let me just take your first point; I could do the rest but really, I let you do it if you are really worried.
    The name of the club being dial square FC. It sounds from your argument that it is true, and your grouse is just that the name only lasted for one match. If that is the case, it doesn’t matter if it were for half a match, it was a former name for the club, period.
    No, the article claims that the name Dial Square was kept until 1893 when the club became Woolwich Arsenal thus removing the whole of Royal Arsenal from the club’s history – a ludicrous mistake that could not be made by anyone who really knows and values the club’s history. And that is what the man who is proposing the new club claims he does.
    OF course you can call my assertions unfounded, and yes I’ll publish that claim here, but all you have to do is go through either of the books on the early club (one of which I was not involved in) or the huge level of data and historic research with evidence on the Arsenal History Society site (only some of which I wrote) to find the reality. Should you be interested.