Norfolk's First Crowd Trouble?|
Back in the spring of 1893, Lynn Juniors were in the final of the Norfolk Junior Cup against Norwich YMCA, their first appearance in that stage of the competition.
It is often said that the referee’s decision is final and that there is no point protesting but in the 19th Century things were not always that straightforward and protests before and after the match were not uncommon. The choice of venue, referee, and the rules regarding team selection and eligibility were often challenged.
The 1893 Norfolk Junior Cup final is a good example. On their way to the final Norwich YMCA had a few problems with fielding their strongest team as the rules gave preference to the County team. This had resulted in a few protests and matches being replayed. When it came to the final it was Lynn who protested. The rules of the competition stated that the final had to be played in Norwich and it was proposed that it should be staged at the Lakenham ground. Lynn Juniors protested as their opponents sometimes played there and it was felt that this might be an unfair advantage to the Norwich side. So it was agreed to stage the final at Earlham Road, Norwich – the home of Norwich CEYMS (Church of England Young Men’s Society). The following excerpts from the Eastern Daily Press tell the story of what followed beginning with the result of the final and what seems like a referee who did spot everything.
Norwich YMCA 3 Lynn Juniors 1
“There does not appear to be any doubt that prior to Snelling opening the YMCA account the ball had gone into touch near to the corner flag. The linesman and spectators standing in a favourable position state that it was not just a question of inches but feet . . . and again in two cases their [YMCA] own men accidentally handled the leather when goals must have been scored . . .
It is, however, understood that before leaving the losers lodged a protest against the first goal, on the grounds previously mentioned, though there is still doubt as to whether it is their intention to pursue the case. The majority are of the opinion their protest will be withdrawn.”
They were wrong as a few days later came:
“There is to be a meeting of the Committee of the NCFA on Saturday evening at 5.30 when amongst other business the Lynn Juniors protest will demand the attention of those present. The Juniors are supposed to have a very strong case, their objections, first the referee not being chosen in accordance with Rule 17, and secondly against the validity of the first goal scored by their opponents, the ball having previously been ruled out of play by the YM linesman, being supported by a large number of persons not in any way connected with either team. A curious point is that the Cup is now being exhibited in a shop window in the city, labelled as being the property of the YMCA for the ensuing twelve months.”
The Norfolk County FA ruled that the match should be replayed, once again at Earlham Road, but with Lynn leading 3-1 there was a pitch invasion:
There were “Fourteen minutes remaining to play, when a large section of the crowd, no longer able to conceal the disappointment, rushed helter-skelter over the lines, successfully putting an end to the game. The exhibition of cowardly rowdyism that followed this outbreak had never previously been witnessed in Norfolk, and the like has seldom, if ever, been equalled by a Northern or Midland crowd, and they are not over gentle out that way.”
Some accused the supporters of Norwich CEYMS as being responsible for the trouble – nursing old scores from the Lynn first team’s Norfolk Senior Cup victory over the Churchmen a month earlier and in particular a provocative “In Memoriam” notice that appeared in the Lynn press. This was denied by CEYMS who issued a reward for information:
“£5 reward – This reward will be paid to any person giving authentic information that may lead to identifying the person or persons who maliciously cut the enclosure rope at Earlham Road”
It is not stated if the culprits were identified. As for the competition itself – it was first decided that the match should be replayed again, this time at Dereham, but later that the Cup should be shared.
Lynn v Yarmouth 1900
Crowd trouble a century ago never seems to have involved rival fans – although fans did travel to away matches – often using trains laid on for the purpose. For example, for the visit of Yarmouth in March 1900 it was noted that the visitors only brought 100 fans. Perhaps there was no trouble because visiting fans tended to be heavily outnumbered (the attendance for that match being around 2,000) but most anger at the turn of the century seems to have been aimed at the referee – or occasionally the opposing team.
In part three of these articles we mentioned the visit of Yarmouth Town in 1903 and the closure of the ground for a month as a result of the crowd giving the referee something of a hard time as he tried to make his way back to his hotel. This, however, was not the first time the Lynn ground had been closed by the authorities.
Lowestoft Town visited The Walks on February 12th 1898. It was the first season of Norfolk & Suffolk League football at Lynn and the visitors arrived looking for their first win – although they had only played four league matches and three of them had ended in a draw.
Lowestoft won the toss and decided to attack the Workhouse [Tennyson Avenue] goal.
Lynn took the lead through Harry Smith but as the first half progressed it was noted that “The game became pretty lively towards the interval, more fouling than was agreeable being contributed.”
The standard of play deteriorated in the second half and it was observed in the “Lynn News” that: “more energy than was at all necessary was infused into the game. Indignant voices from the crowd were continually to be heard, one — a familiar and lusty one — drew to its owner the attention of the referee, who had occasion to approach the ropes in remonstrance. The home defenders were hard taxed, the forwards rather shrinking from the lunges of their opponent, Tripp, (an unfortunate name for a footballer) was especially active in a decidedly ungentle manner, his repeated vicious looking charges after the ball was quite away from him telling its tale on the home forwards. His earlier good play made this falling off the more regrettable. The Lowestoft tactics, instead of being taken advantage of by the home side appeared contagious, for losing their heads, some of them also tried the bluffing game and the whistle was much in request. Not so much used, though, as it might have been, for many grievous infringements went unpunished. ”
A controversial penalty was awarded to Lowestoft and although Gay in the Lynn goal stopped the shot Crews put the follow-up into the Lynn net.
“At the end of the 45 minutes of exciting play. which certainly could not be called football, the score therefore was a one all draw.
At the conclusion a section of the crowd demonstrated clearly, if roughly, their disapproval of incidents during the match, but the noisy throng leaving the field were kept in order by the police, though not before a Lowestoft player had received some rough usage.”
With there being no Internet forums for people to express their opinions in those times some did the next best thing – they sent a letter to the press.
“It was evident from the play of the Lowestoft team, after the game had been in progress for a few minutes, that they intended to win (if possible), and that that win was to obtained, not through play but by brute force” wrote HJD in the Eastern Daily Press a few days later.
The Lowestoft Town assistant secretary replied through the press – not mentioning the physical nature of the game but complaining about the press’s unfair reporting of the match and that it was up to the Norfolk County Football Association to judge the affair.
Although the “rough usage” was attributed to the action of boys the judgement was to close the Lynn ground for two weeks in the March of that year.
It might have been that Lowestoft had a motive in bringing the crowd trouble to the notice of the county football association. As the Eastern Daily Press observed:
“The closing of the Lynn ground is the first step of its kind taken by the NCFA and it should act as a salutary warning to clubs all over the county. Lowestoft obtained similar notoriety in the neighbouring county, and it is not a little strange that they should be the means of bringing another club to account.”
Lowestoft went on to win the league, Lynn finishing one point behind in second place.
Dereham Charity Cup 1903 v Lowestoft Town
It was the final of the Dereham Charity Cup and on 22nd April Lynn were playing Lowestoft Town. It was the first time that this piece of silverware was up for grabs. In addition to the Lynn supporters it appears that the locals of Dereham were also supporting Lynn against the Norfolk & Suffolk League champions.
The story of the game seems pretty straightforward. Lynn took an early lead through E W Bannister but it was noted in the Eastern Daily Press that “Lowestoft early on indulged in tactics which did not tally with the rules of the game”.
Lowestoft equalised but, in the second half. Lynn regained the lead through Ambrose Ransome. It seems that this reverse did not go well with Lowestoft and the crowd responded with jeers and abuse.
The events that followed are described from Lowestoft perspective in a letter that appeared in the Eastern Daily Press
“We were very much surprised on lining up to see Mr Geo Miller, an old Lynn player, officiating as referee. The game, for a cup tie, was a remarkably clean one. The spectators, however, were very disorderly, calling the players by name personally, and using bad language. The referee was appealed to several times by the Lowestoft players, but he did not caution the spectators in any way until about ten minutes before the game was stopped. They were no better after that, but if anything their behaviour was worse. The reasons that lead up to the Lowestoft team leaving the field, an incident which no one now regrets more than the team themselves, were as follows:
The ball hit the side of the net of the Lowestoft goal, and was put behind by Chamberlain [a Lynn player]. The referee, on an appeal, gave a corner which we protested against. The referee, however, held to his decision and said, “The next remark I hear from either side, the player goes off the field.” He then blew for the corner to be taken and Timoney said, “Let’s clear this corner boys.” Mr Miller promptly ordered him off for his offensive remark. But we did not go off the field because of Timoney was ordered off. The corner kick was taken and the ball dropped in the mouth of the goal. Mewse made a rush and cleared the ball, but was promptly sent off by the referee, for what reason none of the players could understand, and the penalty was awarded to Lynn. We thought we might as well go off the field then in a body as be sent off piecemeal. It was chiefly the very bad behaviour of the crowd which made us come to this conclusion.
Mr Norman Jones, a member of the committee who accompanied the team, said the language used by the crowd was disgraceful. He said the Lynn supporters were allowed to say what they liked whilst the Lowestoft supporters were not permitted to speak He says he shouted out once “Come on boys, get together”, or words to that effect, and the super-intendent of police at once came up to him and said you must not shout, you must not say anything.”
Lowestoft were duly punished for their actions. The following appeared in the Eastern Daily Press 30 April 1903
“The committee of the Suffolk County Football Association was engaged for two hours yesterday afternoon in investigating the circumstances of a recent match at East Dereham between Lynn and Lowesoft when the latter team left the ground before time was up.
Mr G L Miller (referee in the Dereham Charity Cup match, Lowesoft and Lynn Town) reported that he had ordered off Timoney and Mewse for rough play and ungentlemanly behaviour, and also reported the Lowestoft team left the field 16 minutes before time.
The committee cautioned Timoney, suspended Mewse till December 31st and the rest of the team from 1st to the 15th September. The Lowestoft club are to pay the expenses of the enquiry”
Lynn v Yarmouth 1903
Back in 1903, referees had something of a disadvantage in that their mode of transport was invariably by rail. This meant that should the performance of the official on the field not live up to the expectations of the crowd then the short walk from the ground to the railway station could seem very long.
For the visit of Yarmoth Town in November 1903 the referee had come from London and was staying at the East Anglian Hotel – his problem was how to get back to his accommodation having upset a section of the crowd – although it could have been worse – Lynn drew 2-2 – one wonders what would have happened if they had lost!
It may be that it was the crowd that was wrong rather than the decisions of the referee. The Lynn News and County Press thought the crowd might be at fault as “in many cases … the spectators in question did not understand the off-side rules.” The Eastern Daily Press suggested that “It would almost pay the Lynn executive for Mr Secretary Orviss to have a thousand or two leaflets printed with the gist of the offside rule simply and plainly explained for the benefit of those who attend matches at the Walks Field. ”
Perhaps the crowd’s criticism of the referee aggravated the problem as the Lynn News reported that “He hardly seemed to know what to do, and many of his decisions were quite mysterious . . . The game ended in almost farcical manner owing to the numerous off-side and other decisions”
On attempting to make his way back to his hotel Mr Neale was surrounded by a mob of some 200 and was confronted with cries of “put him in the river”
The Eastern Daily Press summed up the event in a language which, if used today, might have a few reaching for their dictionaries.
“The division of league points at the Walks Field was perhaps a fortunate ending to a rather roystering time. By roystering, the conduct of the spectators is meant . . . Referee A. G. Neale was the scapegoat at The Walks, and after the game the crowd (or the rowdy portion of it) gave him a hostile reception.
His police protected progress from the field and through the Walks was accompanied by a body of booing and hooting roughs, whose noise would not have been unworthy of an old time election fracas.
Throughout the game the crowd showed considerable irritability. Apparent vacillation on five or six occasions when, instead of giving a decisive ruling after pulling up the game, he merely threw up the ball was almost enough to get the crowd fidgety; but the prime factor of the crowd's discomfort was undoubtedly the almost constant whistling for offside in the second half.”
The referee reported the matter to the Norfolk Football Association:
"I regret to report that at the conclusion of the Lynn v Yarmouth Norfolk & Suffolk League match, played at Lynn on Saturday November 24th, a large mob waited at the exit gate and followed me to the East Anglian Hotel assuming a very threatening attitude. Thanks to the organised protection of the police, the Lynn club officials and Yarmouth players, I suffered no personal molestation, but with a view to the protection of future visiting clubs and officials, I consider it my duty to report these occurrences.
Yarmouth Town also submitted a report – although their criticism was also of the club in failing to control its fans.
"I am intrusted by my committee to bring under the notice of your association the attitude and general begaviour of the Lynn supporters towards our players last Saturday. Bad language such as that used to our players makes it unpleasant for any decent team to take part in a match on the Lynn ground, and we feel that this behaviour, and the want of effort on the part of the Lynn executive to deal with it, makes it necessary for your association to take notice of the same."
The conclusion of the Norfolk Football Association was that the “Lynn ground [be] closed for 28 days during which time the Lynn Club will not be allowed to play within a radiious of five miles from their ground.”