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September 2020
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Arsenal in lockdown, football not in lockdown – horse racing says “tally ho!”

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal locked down, Arsenal fans locked out, government and horse racing says “carry on, carry on!”

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Everywhere shuts down, except England.  No one knows what to do except President Trump who knows everything because he’s clever.  Or at least that’s what he says.

So Arsenal has lockdowned after Mikel Arteta was diagnosed with coronavirus.  London Colney and Hale End are shut.  The Brighton game is off.  Given the lockdown times that normally follow an outbreak it looks like the Sheffield United FA Cup match won’t be played on the due date.

But Arsenal’s complete squad and all the coaching staff have now gone into isolation for a couple of weeks.   After that, the players will have to start training again as they would after any injury which means Arsenal will effectively be out of action for a month.   That takes us up to somewhere around 20 April.  If the season carries on, it’s going to be much delayed.

BUT… most of the players and staff won’t have the virus.  So after they come back from the lockdown they will still be liable to get it.  If anyone who has been isolated and then starts training again and gets the virus we are off again.  And that doesn’t just mean Arsenal – if another club gets into the situation Arsenal are in, they will lock down.

On their own, the clubs can do nothing.  What people are expecting seems to be a suspension of the season, waiting and seeing what happens, and then the most likely outcome is a complete write off of the season.  It will be as if the season did not take place at all.

Of course, it is not just Arsenal suffering.  One Man City player is self-isolating, and there are suggestions of problems at Leicester City.

But as I write this on Friday morning, the Premier League stands alone as the only top league to carry on (probably because we are British and that is what we do).  Top leagues in the USA, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, are completely shut down, in France and Germany, it is matches without spectators.  Scotland has banned gatherings of over 500 from Monday, so that presumably shuts down their league although given the size of crowds in the Scottish League Two, that should not affect them.

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The last time there was this level of uncertainty as to what would happen with football was at the start of the first world war on 4 August 1914.

But then there was a feeling that the war would be done and dusted by Christmas, so the Football League continued.  This caused much upset among the upper classes who wanted football shut down as it was seen as a distraction for working men, who might otherwise sign up for the army or navy.  Most national newspapers called for the League to be forced to stop playing its games.

However Britain had no conscription at the time, and indeed didn’t force men into the military until 1917, so football matches became a key location for recruiting.   Meanwhile, while many aristocrats (including the newspaper owners) called for football to be outlawed, they also were vociferous about the need to keep horse racing going – and indeed it carried on throughout the war years.

The Football League played the 1914/15 season in full, and it was during this campaign that Henry Norris, the Arsenal chairman, and others, used matches as recruiting grounds, encouraging young men to sign up for the military.  Additionally Norris and several other prominent men in the League came up with the idea of forming a footballers’ battalion, which would include both professional footballers who had volunteered, and club supporters who wanted to be in a unit alongside their heroes.   With the government being slow to act Norris paid the wages of such men to train and ran the unit until it could be assimilated into the Middlesex Regiment.

At the same time the government decided that it needed a list of young men who could be called up as and when conscription was introduced.  This was no easy matter since most young men were not registered to vote, so there were no electoral rolls to give reliable information as to who lived where, how old they were etc.  What’s more certain professions were excluded from enlistment, such as teachers (the government not wanting hordes of out of control children meandering around the streets if the schools shut).

The local councils were given responsibility for drawing up the lists of possible conscripts, but virtually all failed to collect the data.  With some areas putting in no return, the War Office sent Henry Norris (who was a house builder, Mayor of Fulham and chief exec of Arsenal, not a state employee) to Worthing to sort out the registration of young men in the area.   When he got that done in a matter of a couple of months he was brought back to the War Office to work on the central co-ordination of conscription.

By 1917 when conscription started, Norris (who was of course still chief executive of Arsenal) had been given a knighthood for his work in forming the football battalions and had risen from having no rank in the army to being a Lieutenant Colonel.  The full story of Arsenal and Henry Norris during the first world war is told as part of “Henry Norris at the Arsenal” which is available in full on the AISA Arsenal History Society site.

As for what will happen now, who knows.  The biggest parallel I can see between 1914 and now is a government that says “We’re British, we do it our way” and then is not quite sure what to do.

14 comments to Arsenal in lockdown, football not in lockdown – horse racing says “tally ho!”

  • frOOm

    On another subject:
    I am sick of all these ex-Arsenal players who are talking shit about our favorite club. Do they realise how much damage they do? They are not different than those who are spreading all this negativity around. Yes I have just read that Ian Wright thinks Aubam deserves better than Arsenal and that angered me. What I think? Arsenal deserves better treatment by its ex-players and even more now because the club is on the right track to regain his identity and his confidence. Ex-players from other PL clubs are always defending their own club even when what they say is ridiculous but they show that they are proud to be an ex-player. Sadly it seems Arsenal is the only club that is knocked at every corner by its ex-players. Shame on them! If they don’t want to support us, they should say nothing… They don’t want Arsenal to win !

  • Chris

    well that’s it then.
    The PL is shut down until April

  • mick shelley

    What a terrible shame for Liverpool, on the brink of their first Premier League title ever, if the season is unable to be completed and consequently declared null and void and they are denied their open top bus parade. (Banned smiley)
    I have nothing against the scousers but the current superior attitude and smugness of most of their supporters (my daughter is one of them) and the ex Liverpool pundits has really irritated me.

  • Gord

    Headline: Greatly Reduced Sports Betting “Contrails”

    When 9/11 happened, airline traffic greatly decreased. A consequence of this, was that contrails from aircraft almost disappeared over huge expanses of North America (and elsewhere). Some new knowledge came out of this unplanned event.

    If there are people or groups who are “addicted” to sports betting, this sudden shutting down of huge swaths of sports (yesterday, I heard that World Womens Curling event scheduled for Prince George, BC, Canada has been cancelled) is going to cause problems. And this may give bodies looking to stop sport corruption a chance to better understand the problem and identify the people and organizations driving this corruption.

    Will any members of PGMO or The (sweet) FA get caught up in this?

  • Gord

    Headline: Greatly Reduced Sports Betting “Contrails”

    MARCA has a blurb about shutting down the “sports economy” in Spain.

    https://www.marca.com/en/football/spanish-football/2020/03/13/5e6b5b2eca47418b238b45d5.html

  • Gord

    This article is on cricket, but is probably equally true for any sport. It seems to work if you s/cricket/football/g;

    https://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/cricket/coronavirus-crisis-offers-cricket-chance-for-a-wakening/news-story/749588ec1cce86d9d114dc9d8e223dbd

  • Nitram

    frOOm

    Absolutely spot on.

    Wright is a disgrace.

    He has a history of this b***ocks of encouraging players to leave. He used to do it with Henry all the time, as well as others.

    As you say, other clubs, with much worse records than Arsenal, including Liverpool and Spurs, don’t seem to have their ex players encouraging their best players to leave.

    Wright constantly promotes himself as a fanatical Arsenal fan, dancing around in the studios when we score, but why on earth would an Arsenal fan ever encourage one of our stars to leave?

    I mean even if he does think Auba could do better for himself, why would he do that?

    I’ll tell you why, because the mans a bitter and twisted little p***

    Arsenal fan my arse.

  • Steve Vallins

    For some reason I can’t open the next article “ Why Arsenal’s could well be over “.
    The top title in red appears and remains then the script appears briefly and disappears .

  • Gord

    With so much football shutdown for an indeterminate period of time, the EPL, The (sweet) FA, UEFA, FIFA and a bunch of similar organizations should take the time to get rid of the crap that is in their systems. For the EPL, they should be looking to replace 😈 Mike Riley and a big chunk of the Select Group referees (Dean, Atkinson, Taylor, …).

  • Gord

    I believe that mental giant, Gary Neville, was against shutting down leagues for COVID-19. Can someone please get Gary a volunteer position at a care facility so that he can experience what getting sick is about.

  • Chris

    @Steve,

    I believe this article was victim of it’s own success. it was No trending article on newsNow, which means probably the server can/could not handle all the requests.

    Nice to see that Untold is trending…

  • frOOm

    Nitram,

    Yes he does. Ian Wright is a disgrace by saying this kind of things and I didn’t know for Henry. Does Wright fear to lose his place in the goal for Arsenal record?
    Now I get why he is invited on Tv shows. So are all Arsenal ex-players saying bullshit about their club or is it TV that only invites those who spread negativity around the team. I think it is the second option, they have to stick to their agenda! But that does not excuse Ian Wright at all.

  • Nitram

    frOOm

    As one of the regulars (sorry I forget who) said the other day, for all the sycophantic arse licking of the ex Liverpool players that work in the media, I have to say I begrudgingly admire their stoic support of the team they so obviously still love, especially when you measure their behaviour against the constant negativity, insults and abuse, emanating from just about every ex Arsenal player plying their trade in the main stream media, and Wright is one of the worst.

    Historically I have been given stick on here for expressing my dislike (and that’s putting it mildly) for Wright in the past.

    I think at one point I said his statue should be removed and “I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire”, and to be fair my views have changed, because now I would actually fan the flames.

    Honestly, I cant stand the nasty little man.

    Arsenal fan my arse.

    Legend my arse.

  • The article became the most read article about Arsenal on the day it was published, and as a result the servers couldn’t cope with the volume of people trying to access it. Sorry. It was our most read article ever – in all 12 years.